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Full text of "The tragedy of the Korosko"

The Tragedy of 

The Korosko 




^ jk 



A.Conan Doyle 




University of California • Berkeley 

Gift of 
THE HEARST CORPORATION 






'■:■•"-■' Si 



Hearst Memorial Library 

Case No. - .4_ Shelf No. £zrJg. 
Drawer No |r ' -fory Wn /J. /-** 

"NOT Tp BE REMOVED FROM LIBRARY^ / 
WITHOUT PROPER AUTHORITY." +* I 

WOTCftTY OF HfAKST COtf 







THE TRAGEDY OF 
THE KOROSKO 



BY THE SAME AUTHOR. 

MICAH CLARKE. 

THE WHITE COMPANY. 

THE REFUGEES. 

RODNEY STONE. 

UNCLE BERNAC. 

THE GREAT SHADOW. 

ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES. 

MEMOIRS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES. 

THE SIGN OF FOUR. 

A STUDY IN SCARLET. 

THE FIRM OF GIRDLESTONE. 

THE PARASITE. 

EXPLOITS OF BRIGADIER GERARD. 

CAPTAIN OF THE POLE STAR. 

ROUND THE RED LAMP. 

THE STARK MUNRO LETTERS. 

THE DOINGS OF RAFFLES HAW. 




THE COLONEL LEANED FORWARD WITH HIS PISTOL. 



{Page 294. 



THE TRAGEDY OE 
THE KOROSKO 



A. CONAN DOYLE 

AUTHOR OF "MICAH CLARKE," "THE WHITE COMPANY, 
"RODNEY STONE," "UNCLE BERNAC," ETC. 



WITH FORTY FULL-PAGE ILLUSTRATIONS 



LONDON- 
SMITH, ELDER, & CO., 15 WATERLOO PLACE, S.W, 

1898 
[All Rights reserved] 



Printed by Ballantyne, Hanson &> Co. 
At the Ballantyne Press 



TO MY FRIEND 

JAMES PAYN 

IN TOKEN OF 
MY AFFECTION AND ESTEEM 



PKEFACE 

This book has been materially enlarged 

and altered since its appearance in serial 

form. 

A. CONAN DOYLE 



Undershaw, Hindhead, 
October 27, 1897. 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 



The Colonel leaned forward with his pistol 

Frontispiece 

PAGE 

"And so you will carve tour names also" . . 17 
"Isn't it just too lovely for anything?" cried 

Sadie 50 

He pointed up with his donkey-whip ... 58 

a silence fell upon the little company . . 65 
They looked at the long string of red-turbaned 

RIDERS 74 

"you do no good by exposing yourself" . . 82 

" i'm done ! " he whispered 88 

he struck at the shrinking, snarling savages . 94 

He fell suddenly upon his face .... 99 

The party streamed into sight again . . . 107 

"Don't miss your grip of it" 116 

"Tippy Tilly," said he 122 

Looking for some landmark ... . . . 133 

He rolled over on to his side .... 141 

" norah, darling," he shouted, " keep your heart 

up!" 148 

"They haven't hurt you, Norah, have they?" . 154 
it was the hour of arab prayer . . . .159 

The old soldier fell forward gasping . . . 163 



Xll LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

PAGE 

"i am quite certain that i would not leave you " 172 

"you must trust to me " 178 

The two Emirs gazed suspiciously at them . .187 

The creature, after a step or two, stood still . 197 

"It's the great caravan route" .... 202 

" how can we stave them off for another day ? " 206 

A Baggara SLIPPED DOWN WITH A SWORD IN HIS 

HAND 215 

Senseless under the palm-trees .... 221 

" Very good ! go ! " ' said the Colonel abruptly . 228 

His hand was clutching at Cochrane's throat . 233 
He took a shining date out of the Moolah's 

beard 248 

" For your life's sake, stand up ! " . . . 254 

" Don't fret, John ! " cried his wife . . . 258 
The Colonel was the winner of this terrible 

LOTTERY 265 

" Good-bye, little Sadie ! " 273 

On this pinnacle stood a solitary, motionless 

FIGURE 288 

"you haven't got such a thing as a cigar?" . 300 

" Not a word ! not a word ! " he cried . . 305 

The Arabs were caught between two fires . 313 

" They are saved ! " 318 

"He delivered them from their distress" . . 328 



THE 

TRAGEDY OF THE K0R0SK0 

CHAPTER I 

The public may possibly wonder why it is that 

they have never heard in the papers of the fate 

of the passengers of the Korosko. In these days 

of universal press agencies, responsive to the 

slightest stimulus, it may well seem incredible 

that an international incident of such importance 

should remain so long unchronicled. Suffice it 

that there were very valid reasons, both of a 

personal and of a political nature, for holding it 

back. The facts were well known to a good 

number of people at the time, and some version 

of them did actually appear in a provincial paper, 

but was generally discredited. They have now 

been thrown into narrative form, the incidents 

A 



2 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

having been collated from the sworn statements 
of Colonel Cochrane Cochrane, of the Army and 
Navy Club, and from the letters of Miss Adams, 
of Boston, Mass. These have been supplemented 
by the evidence of Captain Archer, of the 
Egyptian Camel Corps, as given before the 
secret Government inquiry at Cairo. Mr. 
James Stephens has refused to put his version 
of the matter into writing, but as these proofs 
have been submitted to him, and no correction 
or deletion has been made in them, it may 
be supposed that he has not succeeded in 
detecting any grave misstatement of fact, and 
that any objection which he may have to their 
publication depends rather upon private and 
personal scruples. 

The Korosko, a turtle-bottomed, round-bowed 
stern-wheeler, with a 30-in. draught and the lines 
of a flat-iron, started upon the 1 3 th of February 
in the year 1895, from Shellal, at the head of 
the first cataract, bound for Wady Haifa. I 
have a passenger card for the trip, which I here 
reproduce : 



THE TKAGEDY OF THE KOKOSKO 



S.W. "Korosko," February 13TH. 

PASSENGERS. 



Colonel Cochrane Cochrane 

Mr. Cecil Brown . 

John H. Headingly 

Miss Adams . 

Miss S. Adams 

Mons. Fardet . 

Mr. and Mrs. Belmont 

James Stephens 

Rev. John Stuart . 

Mrs. Shlesinger, nurse and child 



London. 

London. 

Boston, U.S.A. 

Boston, U.S.A. 

Worcester, Mass., U.SA. 

Paris. 

Dublin. 

Manchester. 

Birmingham. 

Florence. 



This was the party as it started from Shellal, 
with the intention of travelling up the two hun- 
dred miles of Nubian Nile which lie between the 
first and the second cataract. 

It is a singular country, this Nubia. Varying 
in breadth from a few miles to as many yards 
(for the name is only applied to the narrow 
portion which is capable of cultivation), it ex- 
tends in a thin, green, palm-fringed strip upon 
either side of the broad coffee -coloured river. 
Beyond it there stretches on the Libyan bank a 
savage and illimitable desert, extending to the 
whole breadth of Africa. On the other side an 



4 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

equally desolate wilderness is bounded only by 
the distant Red Sea. Between these two huge 
and barren expanses Nubia writhes like a green 
sand- worm along the course of the river. Here 
and there it disappears altogether, and the Nile 
runs between black and sun-cracked hills, with 
the orange drift-sand lying like glaciers in their 
valleys. Everywhere one sees traces of vanished 
races and submerged civilisations. Grotesque 
graves dot the hills or stand up against the sky- 
line : pyramidal graves, tumulus graves, rock 
graves — everywhere, graves. And, occasionally, 
as the boat rounds a rocky point, one sees a de- 
serted city up above — houses, walls, battlements, 
with the sun shining through the empty window 
squares. Sometimes you learn that it has been 
Roman, sometimes Egyptian, sometimes all record 
of its name or origin has been absolutely lost. 
You ask yourself in amazement why any race 
should build in so uncouth a solitude, and you 
find it difficult to accept the theory that this 
has only been of value as a guard-house to the 
richer country down below, and that these frequent 
cities have been so many fortresses to hold off the 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 5 

wild and predatory men of the south. But what- 
ever be their explanation, be it a fierce neighbour, 
or be it a climatic change, there they stand, these 
grim and silent cities, and up on the hills you 
can see the graves of their people, like the port- 
holes of a man-of-war. It is through this weird, 
dead country that the tourists smoke and gossip 
and flirt as they pass up to the Egyptian frontier. 
The passengers of the Korosko formed a merry 
party, for most of them had travelled up together 
from Cairo to Assouan, and even Anglo-Saxon 
ice thaws rapidly upon the Nile. They were 
fortunate in being without the single disagreeable 
person who, in these small boats, is sufficient to 
mar the enjoyment of the whole party. On a 
vessel which is little more than a large steam 
launch, the bore, the cynic, or the grumbler holds 
the company at his mercy. But the Korosko was 
free from anything of the kind. Colonel Cochrane 
Cochrane was one of those officers whom the 
British Government, acting upon a large system 
of averages, declares at a certain age to be in- 
capable of further service, and who demonstrate 
the worth of such a system by spending their 



6 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

declining years in exploring Morocco, or shooting 
lions in Somaliland. He was a dark, straight, 
aquiline man, with a courteously deferential man- 
ner, but a steady, questioning eye ; very neat in 
his dress and precise in his habits, a gentleman 
to the tips of his trim finger-nails. In his Anglo- 
Saxon dislike to effusiveness he had cultivated 
a self-contained manner which was apt at first 
acquaintance to be repellant, and he seemed to 
those who really knew him to be at some pains 
to conceal the kind heart and human emotions 
which influenced his actions. It was respect 
rather than affection which he inspired among 
his fellow-travellers, for they felt, like all who had 
ever met him, that he was a man with whom 
acquaintance was unlikely to ripen into a friend- 
ship, though a friendship, when once attained, 
would be an unchanging and inseparable part 
of himself. He wore a grizzled military mous- 
tache, but his hair was singularly black for 
a man of his years. He made no allusion in 
his conversation to the numerous campaigns in 
which he had distinguished himself, and the 
reason usually given for his reticence was that 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 7 

they dated back to such early Victorian days 
that he had to sacrifice his military glory at the 
shrine of his perennial youth. 

Mr. Cecil Brown — to take the names in the 
chance order in which they appear upon the 
passenger list — was a young diplomatist from 
a Continental Embassy, a man slightly tainted 
with the Oxford manner, and erring upon the 
side of unnatural and inhuman refinement, but 
full of interesting talk and cultured thought. 
He had a sad, handsome face, a small wax-tipped 
moustache, a low voice and a listless manner, 
which was relieved by a charming habit of sud- 
denly lighting up into a rapid smile and gleam 
when anything caught his fancy. An acquired 
cynicism was eternally crushing and overlying 
his natural youthful enthusiasms, and he ignored 
what was obvious while expressing keen apprecia- 
tion for what seemed to the average man to be 
either trivial or unhealthy. He chose Walter 
Pater for his travelling author, and sat all day, 
reserved but affable, under the awning, with his 
novel and his sketch-book upon a camp-stool 
beside him. His personal dignity prevented him 



O THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

from making advances to others, but if they 
chose to address him they found a courteous and 
amiable companion. 

The Americans formed a group by themselves. 
John H. Heading 1 y was a New Englander, a 
graduate of Harvard, who was completing his 
education by a tour round the world. He stood 
for the best type of young American — quick, 
observant, serious, eager for knowledge and fairly 
free from prejudice, with a fine ballast of unsec- 
tarian but earnest religious feeling which held 
him steady amid all the sudden gusts of youth. 
He had less of the appearance and more of the 
reality of culture than the young Oxford diplo- 
matist, for he had keener emotions though less 
exact knowledge. Miss Adams and Miss Sadie 
Adams were aunt and niece, the former a little, 
energetic, hard-featured Bostonian old-maid, with 
a huge surplus of unused love behind her stern 
and swarthy features. She had never been from 
home before, and she was now busy upon the 
self-imposed task of bringing the East up to 
the standard of Massachusetts. She had hardly 
landed in Egypt before she realised that the 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 9 

country needed putting to rights, and since the 
conviction struck her she had been very fully 
occupied. The saddle-galled donkeys, the starved 
pariah dogs, the flies round the eyes of the 
babies, the naked children, the importunate beg- 
gars, the ragged, untidy women — they were all 
challenges to her conscience, and she plunged in 
bravely at her work of reformation. As she 
could not speak a word of the language, however, 
and was unable to make any of the delinquents 
understand what it was that she wanted, her 
passage up the Nile left the immemorial East 
very much as she had found it, but afforded a 
good deal of sympathetic amusement to her 
fellow - travellers. No one enjoyed her efforts 
more than her niece, Sadie, who shared with 
Mrs. Belmont the distinction of being the most 
popular person upon the boat. She was very 
young — fresh from Smith College — and she still 
possessed many both of the virtues and of the 
faults of a child. She had the frankness, the 
trusting confidence, the innocent straightforward- 
ness, the high spirits, and also the loquacity and 
the want of reverence. But even her faults 



10 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

caused amusement, and if she had preserved 
many of the characteristics of a clever child, 
she was none the less a tall and handsome 
woman, who looked older than her years on 
account of that low curve of the hair over the 
ears, and that fulness of bodice and skirt which 
Mr. Gibson has either initiated or imitated. The 
whisk of those skirts, and the frank, incisive 
voice and pleasant, catching laugh were familiar 
and welcome sounds on board of the Korosko. 
Even the rigid Colonel softened into geniality, 
and the Oxford-bred diplomatist forgot to be 
unnatural with Miss Sadie Adams as a com- 
panion. 

The other passengers may be dismissed more 
briefly. Some were interesting, some neutral, and 
all amiable. Monsieur Fardet was a good-natured 
but argumentative Frenchman, who held the 
most decided views as to the deep machinations 
of Great Britain, and the illegality of her position 
in Egypt. Mr. Belmont was an iron-grey, sturdy 
Irishman, famous as an astonishingly good long- 
range rifle-shot, who had carried off nearly every 
prize which Wimbledon or Bisley had to offer. 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 11 

With him was his wife, a very charming and 
refined woman, full of the pleasant playfulness 
of her country. Mrs. Shlesinger was a middle- 
aged widow, quiet and soothing, with her 
thoughts all taken up by her six-year-old 
child, as a mother's thoughts are likely to be 
in a boat which has an open rail for a bul- 
wark. The Reverend John Stuart was a Non- 
conformist minister from Birmingham — either a 
Presbyterian or a Congregationalist — a man of 
immense stoutness, slow and torpid in his ways, 
but blessed with a considerable fund of homely 
humour, which made him, I am told, a very 
favourite preacher, and an effective speaker from 
advanced Radical platforms. 

Finally, there was Mr. James Stephens, a Man- 
chester solicitor (junior partner of Hickson, Ward, 
and Stephens), who was travelling to shake off 
the effects of an attack of influenza. Stephens 
was a man who, in the course of thirty years, 
had worked himself up from cleaning the firm's 
windows to managing its business. For most of 
that long time he had been absolutely immersed 
in dry, technical work, living with the one idea 



12 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

of satisfying old clients and attracting new ones, 
until his mind and soul had become as formal 
and precise as the laws which he expounded. 
A fine and sensitive nature was in danger of 
being as warped as a busy city man's is liable to 
become. His work had become an engrained 
habit, and, being a bachelor, he had hardly an 
interest in life to draw him away from it, so 
that his soul was being gradually bricked up 
like the body of a mediaeval nun. But at 
last there came this kindly illness, and Nature 
hustled James Stephens out of his groove, and 
sent him into the broad world far away from 
roaring Manchester and his shelves full of calf- 
skin authorities. At first he resented it deeply. 
Everything seemed trivial to him compared to his 
own petty routine. But gradually his eyes were 
opened, and he began dimly to see that it was 
his work which was trivial when compared to this 
wonderful, varied, inexplicable world of which he 
was so ignorant. Vaguely he realised that the 
interruption to his career might be more im- 
portant than the career itself. All sorts of new 
interests took possession of him ; and the middle- 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 13 

aged lawyer developed an after-glow of that youth 
which had been wasted among his books. His 
character was too formed to admit of his being any- 
thing but dry and precise in his ways, and a trifle 
pedantic in his mode of speech ; but he read and 
thought and observed, scoring his " Baedeker " 
with underlinings and annotations as he had 
once done his " Prideaux's Commentaries." He 
had travelled up from Cairo with the party, and 
had contracted a friendship with Miss Adams 
and her niece. The young American girl, with 
her chatter, her audacity, and her constant flow 
of high spirits, amused and interested him, and 
she in turn felt a mixture of respect and of pity 
for his knowledge and his limitations. So they 
became good friends, and people smiled to see 
his clouded face and her sunny one bending over 
the same guide-book. 

The little Korosko puffed and spluttered her 
way up the river, kicking up the white water 
behind her, and making more noise and fuss 
over her five knots an hour than an Atlantic 
liner on a record voyage. On deck, under the 
thick awning, sat her little family of passen- 



14 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

gers, and every few hours she eased down and 
sidled up to the bank to allow them to visit 
one more of that innumerable succession of 
temples. The remains, however, grow more 
modern as one ascends from Cairo, and travel- 
lers who have sated themselves at Gizeh and 
Sakara with the contemplation of the very 
oldest buildings which the hands of man have 
constructed, become impatient of temples which 
are hardly older than the Christian era. Ruins 
which would be gazed upon with wonder and 
veneration in any other country are hardly noticed 
in Egypt. The tourists viewed with languid 
interest the half-Greek art of the Nubian bas- 
reliefs; they climbed the hill of Korosko to see 
the sun rise over the savage Eastern desert ; they 
were moved to wonder by the great shrine of 
Abou-Simbel, where some old race has hollowed 
out a mountain as if it ■ were a cheese ; and, 
finally, upon the evening of the fourth day of 
their travels they arrived at Wady Haifa, the 
frontier garrison town, some few hours after they 
were due, on account of a small mishap in the 
engine-room. The next morning was to be 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 15 

devoted to an expedition to the famous rock of 
Abousir, from which a great view may be ob- 
tained of the second cataract. At eight-thirty, 
as the passengers sat on deck after dinner, Man- 
soor, the dragoman, half Copt half Syrian, came 
forward, according to the nightly custom, to 
announce the programme for the morrow. 

" Ladies and gentlemen," said he, plunging 
boldly into the rapid but broken stream of his 
English, " to-morrow you will remember not to 
forget to rise when the gong strikes you for 
to compress the journey before twelve o'clock. 
Having arrived at the place where the donkeys 
expect us, we shall ride five miles over the desert, 
passing a temple of Ammon-ra, which dates itself 
from the eighteenth dynasty, upon the way, and 
so reach the celebrated pulpit rock of Abousir. 
The pulpit rock is supposed to have been called 
so, because it is a rock like a pulpit. When 
you have reached it you will know that you are 
on the very edge of civilisation, and that very 
little more will take you into the country of the 
Dervishes, which will be obvious to you at the top. 
Having passed the summit, you will perceive the 



16 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

full extremity of the second cataract, embracing 
wild natural beauties of the most dreadful variety. 
Here all very famous people carve their names — 
and so you will carve your names also." Mansoor 
waited expectantly for a titter, and bowed to it 
when it arrived. " You will then return to Wady 
Haifa, and there remain two hours to suspect the 
Camel Corps, including the grooming of the beasts, 
and the bazaar before returning, so I wish you a 
very happy good-night." 

There was a gleam of his white teeth in the 
lamplight, and then his long, dark petticoats, his 
short English cover-coat, and his red tarboosh 
vanished successively down the ladder. The low 
buzz of conversation which had been suspended 
by his coming broke out anew. 

" I'm relying on you, Mr. Stephens, to tell me 
all about Abousir," said Miss Sadie Adams. a I 
do like to know what I am looking at right there 
at the time, and not six hours afterwards in my 
state-room. I haven't got Abou-Simbel and the 
wall pictures straight in my mind yet, though I 
saw them yesterday." 

" I never hope to keep up with it," said her 




'and so you will carve your names also." 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 19 

aunt. " When I am safe back in Commonwealth 
Avenue, and there's no dragoman to hustle me 
around, I'll have time to read about it all, and 
then I expect I shall begin to enthuse, and want 
to come right back again. But it's just too good of 
you, Mr. Stephens, to try and keep us informed." 

" I thought that you might wish precise infor- 
mation, and so I prepared a small digest of the 
matter," said Stephens, handing a slip of paper 
to Miss Sadie. She looked at it in the light of 
the deck lamp, and broke into her low, hearty 
laugh. 

" Re Abousir," she read ; " now, what do you 
mean by * re,' Mr. Stephens ? You put ■ re 
Rameses the Second' on the last paper you 
gave me." 

" It is a habit I have acquired, Miss Sadie," 
said Stephens ; " it is the custom in the legal 
profession when they make a memo." 

" Make what, Mr. Stephens ? " 

"A memo a memorandum, you know. 

We put re so-and-so to show what it is about." 

" I suppose^ it's a good short way," said Miss 
Sadie, "but it feels queer somehow when ap- 



20 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

plied to scenery or to dead Egyptian kings. ' Be 
Cheops ' — doesn't that strike you as funny ? " 

" No, I can't say that it does," said Stephens. 

" I wonder if it is true that the English have 
less humour than the Americans, or whether it's 
just another kind of humour," said the girl. She 
had a quiet, abstracted way of talking as if she 
were thinking aloud. " I used to imagine they 
had less, and yet, when you come to think of 
it, Dickens and Thackeray and Barrie, and so 
many other of the humourists we admire most 
are Britishers. Besides, I never in all my days 
heard people laugh so hard as in that London 
theatre. There was a man behind us, and every 
time he laughed auntie looked round to see if 
a door had opened, he made such a draught. 
But you have some funny expressions, Mr. 
Stephens ! " 

" What else strikes you as funny, Miss Sadie ? " 

"Well, when you sent me the temple ticket 
and the little map, you began your letter, ' En- 
closed, please find/ and then at the bottom, in 
brackets, you had ' 2 enclo.' " 

" That is the usual form in business." 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 21 

"Yes, in business," said Sadie demurely, and 
there was a silence. 

" There's one thing I wish," remarked Miss 
Adams, in the hard, metallic voice with which 
she disguised her softness of heart, " and that 
is, that I could see the Legislature of this country 
and lay a few cold-drawn facts in front of them. 
I'd make a platform of my own, Mr. Stephens, 
and run a party on my ticket. A Bill for the 
compulsory use of eyewash would be one of my 
planks, and another would be for the abolition of 
those Yashmak veil things which turn a woman 
into a bale of cotton goods with a pair of eyes 
looking out of it." 

" I never could think why they wore them," 
said Sadie ; " until one day I saw one with her 
veil lifted. Then I knew." 

" They make me tired, those women," cried Miss 
Adams wrathfully. " One might as well try to 
preach duty and decency and cleanliness to a line 
of bolsters. Why, good land, it was only yesterday 
at Abou-Simbel, Mr. Stephens, I was passing one 
of their houses — if you can call a mud-pie like 
that a house — and I saw two of the children 



22 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

at the door with the usual crust of flies round 
their eyes, and great holes in their poor little blue 
gowns ! So I got off my donkey, and I turned 
up my sleeves, and I washed their faces well 
with my handkerchief, and sewed up the rents 
— for in this country I would as soon think of 
going ashore without my needle-case as without 
my white umbrella, Mr. Stephens. Then as I 
warmed on the job I got into the room — such 
a room ! — and I packed the folks out of it, and I 
fairly did the chores as if I had been the hired 
help. I've seen no more of that temple of Abou- 
Simbel than if I had never left Boston ; but, my 
sakes, I saw more dust and mess than you would 
think they could crowd into a house the size of 
a Newport bathing-hut. From the time I pinned 
up my skirt until I came out with my face the 
colour of that smoke-stack, wasn't more than an 
hour, or maybe an hour and a half, but I had 
that house as clean and fresh as a new pine- wood 
box. I had a New York Herald with me, and I 
lined their shelf with paper for them. Well, Mr. 
Stephens, when I had done washing my hands 
outside, I came past the door again, and there 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 23 

were those two children sitting on the stoop with 
their eyes full of flies, and all just the same as 
ever, except that each had a little paper cap 
made out of the New York Herald upon his head. 
But, say, Sadie, it's going on to ten o'clock, and 
to-morrow an early excursion." 

" It's just too beautiful, this purple sky and 
the great silver stars," said Sadie. " Look at 
the silent desert and the black shadows of the 
hills. It's grand, but it's terrible too ; and then 
when you think that we really are, as that 
dragoman said just now, on the very end of 
civilisation, and with nothing but savagery and 
bloodshed down there where the Southern Cross 
is twinkling so prettily, why, it's like standing 
on the beautiful edge of a live volcano." 

" Shucks, Sadie, don't talk like that, child," 
said the older woman nervously. "It's enough 
to scare any one to listen to you." 

" Well, but don't you feel it yourself, Auntie ? 
Look at that great desert stretching away and 
away until it is lost in the shadows. Hear the 
sad whisper of the wind across it ! It's just the 
most solemn thing that ever I saw in my life." 



24 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

" I'm glad we've found something that will 
make you solemn, my dear," said her Aunt. 

" I've sometimes thought Sakes alive, what's 

that ? " 

From somewhere amongst the hill shadows 
upon the other side of the river there had risen 
a high shrill whimpering, rising and swelling, to 
end in a long weary wail. 

" It's only a jackal, Miss Adams," said Stephens. 
" I heard one when we went out to see the Sphinx 
by moonlight." 

But the American lady had risen, and her face 
showed that her nerves had been ruffled. 

" If I had my time over again I wouldn't have 
come past Assouan," said she. " I can't think 
what possessed me to bring you all the way up 
here, Sadie. Your mother will think that I am 
clean crazy, and I'd never dare to look her in the 
eye if anything went wrong with us. I've seen 
all I want to see of this river, and all I ask now 
is to be back at Cairo again." 

" Why, Auntie," cried the girl, " it isn't like 
you to be faint-hearted." 

"Well, I don't know how it is, Sadie, but I 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 25 

feel a bit unstrung, and that beast caterwauling 
over yonder was just more than I could put up 
with. There's one consolation, we are scheduled 
to be on our way home to-morrow, after we've 
seen this one rock or temple, or whatever it is. 
I'm full up of rocks and temples, Mr. Stephens. 
I shouldn't mope if I never saw another. Come, 
Sadie ! Good-night ! " 

" Good-night ! Good-night, Miss Adams ! " 
And the two ladies passed down to their 
cabins. 

Monsieur Fardet was chatting, in a subdued 
voice, with Headingly, the young Harvard 
graduate, bending forward confidentially be- 
tween the whiffs of his cigarette. 

" Dervishes, Mister Headingly ! " said he, speak- 
ing excellent English, but separating his syllables 
as a Frenchman will. " There are no Dervishes. 
They do not exist." 

" Why, I thought the woods were full of them," 
said the American. 

Monsieur Fardet glanced across to where the 
red core of Colonel Cochrane's cigar was glowing 
through the darkness. 



26 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

"You are an American, and you do not like 
the English," he whispered. " It is perfectly 
comprehended upon the Continent that the 
Americans are opposed to the English." 

"Well," said Headingly, with his slow, de- 
liberate manner, " I won't say that we have not 
our tiffs, and there are some of our people-— 
mostly of Irish stock — who are always mad 
with England ; but the most of us have a kindly 
thought for the mother country. You see, they 
may be aggravating folk sometimes, but after all 
they are our own folk, and we can t wipe that 
off the slate." 

" Eh lien ! " said the Frenchman. " At least 
I can say to you what I could not without offence 
say to these others. And I repeat that there 
are, no Dervishes. They were an invention of 
Lord Cromer in the year 1885." 

" You don't say ! " cried Headingly. 

" It is well known in Paris, and has been 
exposed in La Patrie and other of our so well- 
informed papers." 

" But this is colossal," said Headingly. " Do 
you mean to tell me, Monsieur Fardet, that the 



THE TRAGEDY OE THE KOROSKO 27 

siege of Khartoum and the death of Gordon and 
the rest of it was just one great bluff? " 

" I will not deny that there was an eineute, 
but it was local, you understand, and now long 
forgotten. Since then there has been profound 
peace in the Soudan." 

"But I have heard of raids, Monsieur Eardet, 
and I've read of battles, too, when the Arabs 
tried to invade Egypt. It was only two days 
ago that we passed Toski, where the dragoman 
said there had been a fight. Is that all bluff 
also?" 

" Pah, my friend, you do not know the 
English. You look at them as you see them 
with their pipes and their contented faces, and 
you say, ' Now, these are good, simple folk, who 
will never hurt any one.' But all the time they 
are thinking and watching and planning. ' Here 
is Egypt weak,' they cry. 'Allons/' and down 
they swoop like a gull upon a crust. ' You have 
no right there,' says the world. ' Come out 
of it ! ' But England has already begun to tidy 
everything, just like the good Miss Adams when 
she forces her way into the house of an Arab. 



28 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

1 Come out,' says the world. ' Certainly," says 
England; 'just wait one little minute until I 
have made everything nice and proper.' So the 
world waits for a year or so, and then it says 
once again, ' Come out.' ' Just wait a little,' says 
England ; ' there is trouble at Khartoum, and 
when I have set that all right I shall be very 
glad to come out.' So they wait until it is all 
over, and then again they say, ' Come out.' 
' How can I come out,' says England, ' when 
there are still raids and battles going on ? If 
we were to leave, Egypt would be run over.' 
' But there are no raids,' says the world. ' Oh, 
are there not ? ' says England, and then within a 
week sure enough the papers are full of some 
new raid of Dervishes. We are not all blind, 
Mister Headingly. We understand very well 
how such things can be done. A few Bedouins, 
a little backsheesh, some blank cartridges, and, 
behold — a raid ! " 

" Well, well," said the American, " I'm glad to 
know the rights of this business, for it has often 
puzzled me. But what does England get out 
of it ? " 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 29 

" She gets the country, monsieur." 

" I see. You mean, for example, that there is 
a favourable tariff for British goods ? " 

" No, monsieur ; it is the same for all." 

"Well, then, she gives the contracts to 
Britishers ? " 

" Precisely, monsieur." 

" For example, the railroad that they are 
building right through the country, the one that 
runs alongside the river, that would be a valu- 
able contract for the British ? " 

Monsieur Fardet was an honest man, if an 
imaginative one. 

" It is a French company, monsieur, which 
holds the railway contract," said he. 

The American was puzzled. 

" They don't seem to get much for their 
trouble," said he. " Still, of course, there must 
be some indirect pull somewhere. For example, 
Egypt no doubt has to pay and keep all those 
red-coats in Cairo." 

"Egypt, monsieur! No, they are paid by 
England." 

" Well, I suppose they know their own busi- 



30 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

ness best, but they seem to me to take a great 
deal of trouble, and to get mighty little in ex- 
change. If they don't mind keeping order and 
guarding the frontier, with a constant war against 
the Dervishes on their hands, I don't know why 
any one should object. I suppose no one denies 
that the prosperity of the country has increased 
enormously since they came. The revenue re- 
turns show that. They tell me also that the 
poorer folks have justice, which they never had 
before." 

" What are they doing here at all ? " cried the 
Frenchman angrily. " Let them go back to 
their island. We cannot have them all over 
the world." 

" Well, certainly, to us Americans, who live 
all in our own land, it does seem strange how 
you European nations are for ever slopping over 
into some other country which was not meant 
for you. It's easy for us to talk, of course, for 
we have still got room and to spare for all our 
people. When we begin pushing each other over 
the edge we shall have to start annexing also. 
But at present just here in North Africa there 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 31 

is Italy in Abyssinia, and England in Egypt, and 

France in Algiers " 

" France ! " cried Monsieur Fardet. " Algiers 
belongs to France. You laugh, monsieur. I 
have the honour to wish you a very good-night." 
He rose from his seat, and walked off, rigid with 
outraged patriotism, to his cabin. 



CHAPTER II. 

The young American hesitated for a little, 
debating in his mind whether he should not 
go down and post up the daily record of his 
impressions which he kept for his home- staying 
sister. But the cigars of Colonel Cochrane and 
of Cecil Brown were still twinkling in the far 
corner of the deck, and the student was acquisi- 
tive in the search of information. He did not 
quite know how to lead up to the matter, but 
the Colonel very soon did it for him. 

" Come on ; Headingly," said he, pushing a 
camp-stool in his direction. " This is the place 
for an antidote. I see that Fardet has been 
pouring politics into your ear." 

" I can always recognise the confidential stoop 
of his shoulders when he discusses la haute 
politique" said the dandy diplomatist. "But 
what a sacrilege upon a night like this ! What 
a nocturne in blue and silver might be suggested 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 33 

by that moon rising above the desert. There is 
a movement in one of Mendelssohn's songs which 
seems to embody it all — a sense of vastness, of 
repetition, the cry of the wind over an intermin- 
able expanse. The subtler emotions which can- 
not be translated into words are still to be hinted 
at by chords and harmonies." 

" It seems wilder and more savage than ever 
to-night," remarked the American. " It gives 
me the same feeling of pitiless force that the 
Atlantic does upon a cold, dark, winter day. 
Perhaps it is the knowledge that we are right 
there on the very edge of any kind of law and 
order. How far do you suppose that we are 
from any Dervishes, Colonel Cochrane ? " 

" Well, on the Arabian side," said the Colonel, 
" we have the Egyptian fortified camp of Sarras 
about forty miles to the south of us. Beyond 
that are sixty miles of very wild country before 
you would come to the Dervish post at Akasheh. 
On this other side, however, there is nothing 
between us and them." 

" Abousir is on this side, is it not ? " 

" Yes. That is why the excursion to the 



34 THE TKAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

Abousir Rock has been forbidden for the last 
year. But things are quieter now." 

" What is to prevent them from coming down 
on that side ? " 

" Absolutely nothing," said Cecil Brown, in his 
listless voice. 

" Nothing, except their fears. The coming 
of course would be perfectly simple. The 
difficulty would lie in the return. They might 
find it hard to get back if their camels were 
spent, and the Haifa garrison with their beasts 
fresh got on their track. They know it as well 
as we do, and it has kept them from trying." 

" It isn't safe to reckon upon a Dervish's 
fears," remarked Brown. " We must always bear 
in mind that they are not amenable to the 
same motives as other people. Many of them 
are anxious to meet death, and all of them are 
absolute, uncompromising believers in destiny. 
They exist as a reductio ad absurdum of all 
bigotry — a proof of how surely it leads towards 
blank barbarism." 

" You think these people are a real menace 
to Egypt ? " asked the American. " There seems 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 35 

from what I have heard to be some difference 
of opinion about it. Monsieur Fardet, for example, 
does not seem to think that the danger is a very 
pressing one." 

" I am not a rich man," Colonel Cochrane 
answered after a little pause, " but I am pre- 
pared to lay all I am worth, that within three 
years of the British officers being withdrawn, 
the Dervishes would be upon the Mediterranean. 
Where would the civilisation of Egypt be ? where 
would the hundreds of millions which have been 
invested in this country ? where the monuments 
Avhich all nations look upon as most precious 
memorials of the past ? " 

" Come now, Colonel," cried Headingly, laugh- 
ing, " surely you don't mean that they would 
shift the pyramids ? " 

" You cannot foretell what they would do. 
There is no iconoclast in the world like an 
extreme Mohammedan. Last time they over- 
ran this country they burned the Alexandrian 
Library. You know that all representations of 
the human features are against the letter of 
the Koran. A statue is always an irreligious 



36 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

object in their eyes. What do these fellows 
care for the sentiment of Europe ? The more 
they could offend it, the more delighted they 
would be. Down would go the Sphinx, the 
Colossi, the Statues of Abou-Simbel — as the 
saints went down in England before Cromwell's 
troopers." 

" Well now," said Headingly, in his slow, 
thoughtful fashion, " suppose I grant you that 
the Dervishes could overrun Egypt, and suppose 
also that you English are holding them out, 
what I'm never done asking is, what reason 
have you for spending all these millions of 
dollars and the lives of so many of your men ? 
What do you get out of it, more than France 
gets, or Germany, or any other country, that 
runs no risk and never lays out a cent ? " 

" There are a good many Englishmen who 
are asking themselves that question," remarked 
Cecil Brown. " It's my opinion that we have 
been the policemen of the world long enough. 
We policed the seas for pirates and slavers. Now 
we police the land for Dervishes and brigands and 
every sort of danger to civilisation. There is never 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 37 

a mad priest or a witch doctor, or a firebrand of 
any sort on this planet, who does not report his 
appearance by sniping the nearest British officer. 
One tires of it at last. If a Kurd breaks loose 
in Asia Minor, the world wants to know why 
Great Britain does not keep him in order. If 
there is a military mutiny in Egypt, or a Jehad 
in the Soudan, it it still Great Britain who has 
to set it right. And all to an accompaniment 
of curses such as the policeman gets when he 
seizes a ruffian among his pals. We get hard 
knocks and no thanks, and why should we do 
it ? Let Europe do its own dirty work." 

" Well," said Colonel Cochrane, crossing his 
legs and leaning forward with the decision of 
a man who has definite opinions, " I don't at 
all agree with you, Brown, and I think that to 
advocate such a course is to take a very limited 
view of our national duties. I think that behind 
national interests and diplomacy and all that 
there lies a great guiding force — a Providence, 
in fact — which is for ever getting the best out 
of each nation and using it for the good of the 
whole. When a nation ceases to respond, it is 



38 THE TEAGEDY OF THE KOEOSKO 

time that she went into hospital for a few 
centuries, like Spain or Greece — the virtue has 
gone out of her. A man or a nation is not placed 
upon this earth to do merely what is pleasant and 
what is profitable. It is often called upon to 
carry out what is both unpleasant and unprofit- 
able, but if it is obviously right it is mere shirk- 
ing not to undertake it." 

Headingly nodded approvingly. 

" Each has its own mission. Germany is pre- 
dominant in abstract thought ; France in litera- 
ture, art, and grace. But we and you — for the 
English-speakers are all in the same boat, how- 
ever much the New York San may scream over 
it — we and you have among our best men a. 
higher conception of moral sense and public 
duty than is to be found in any other people. 
Now, these are the two qualities which are 
needed for directing a weaker race. You 
can't help them by abstract thought or by 
graceful art, but only by that moral sense 
which will hold the scales of Justice even, and 
keep itself free from every taint of corruption. 
That is how we rule India. We came there 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 39 

by a kind of natural law, like air rushing into 
a vacuum. All over the world, against our 
direct interests and our deliberate intentions, we 
are drawn into the same thing. And it will 
happen to you also. The pressure of destiny 
will force you to administer the whole of America 
from Mexico to the Horn." 

Headingly whistled. 

"Our Jingoes would be pleased to hear you, 
Colonel Cochrane," said he. " They'd vote you 
into our Senate and make you one of the 
Committee on Foreign Relations." 

" The world is small, and it grows smaller every 
day. It's a single organic body, and one spot of 
gangrene is enough to vitiate the whole. There's 
no room upon it for dishonest, defaulting, tyran- 
nical, irresponsible Governments. As long as 
they exist they will always be sources of trouble 
and of danger. But there are many races which 
appear to be so incapable of improvement that 
we can never hope to get a good Government 
out of them. What is to be done, then ? The 
former device of Providence in such a case was 
extermination by some more virile stock — an 



40 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

Attila or a Tamerlane pruned off the weaker 
branch. Now, we have a more merciful substitu- 
tion of rulers, or even of mere advice from a 
more advanced race. That is the case with the 
Central Asian Khanates and with the protected 
States of India. If the work has to be done, 
and if we are the best fitted for the work, then 
I think that it would be a cowardice and a crime 
to shirk it." 

" But who is to decide whether it is a fitting 
case for your interference?" objected the American. 
" A predatory country could grab every other 
land in the world upon such a pretext." 

"Events — inexorable, inevitable events — will 
decide it. Take this Egyptian business as an 
example. In 1 8 8 1 there was nothing in this 
world further from the minds of our people than 
any interference with Egypt ; and yet 1882 left 
us in possession of the country. There was never 
any choice in the chain of events. A massacre 
in the streets of Alexandria, and the mounting 
of guns to drive out our fleet— which was there, 
you understand, in fulfilment of solemn treaty 
obligations — led to the bombardment. The bom- 



THE TRAGEDY Of THE KOROSKO 41 

bardment led to a landing to save the city from 
destruction. The landing caused an extension 
of operations — and here we are, with the country 
upon our hands. At the time of trouble we 
begged and implored the French, or any one else, 
to come and help us to put the thing to rights, 
but they all deserted us when there was work to 
be done, although they are ready enough to scold 
and to impede us now. When we tried to get out 
of it, up came this wild Dervish movement, and 
we had to sit tighter than ever. We never 
wanted the task; but, now that it has come, 
we must put it through in a workmanlike 
manner. We've brought justice into the country, 
and purity of administration, and protection for 
the poor man. It has made more advance in 
the last twelve years than since the Moslem 
invasion in the seventh century. Except the 
pay of a couple of hundred men, who spend 
their money in the country, England has neither 
directly nor indirectly made a shilling out of it, 
and I don't believe you will find in history a 
more successful and more disinterested bit of 
work." 



42 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

Headingly puffed thoughtfully at his cigarette. 

" There is a house near ours, down on the 
Back Bay at Boston, which just ruins the whole 
prospect," said he. " It has old chairs littered 
about the stoop, and the shingles are loose, and 
the garden runs wild ; but I don't know that 
the neighbours are exactly justified in rushing 
in, and stamping around, and running the thing 
on their own lines." 

" Not if it were on fire ? " asked the Colonel. 

Headingly laughed, and rose from his camp- 
stool. 

" Well, it doesn't come within the provisions 
of the Monroe Doctrine, Colonel," said he. " I'm 
beginning to realise that modern Egypt is every 
bit as interesting as ancient, and that Barneses 
the Second wasn't the last live man in the 
country." 

The two Englishmen rose and yawned. 

" Yes, it's a whimsical freak of fortune which 
has sent men from a little island in the Atlantic 
to administer, the land of the Pharaohs," remarked 
Cecil Brown. " We shall pass away again, and 
never leave a trace among these successive races 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 43 

who have held the country, for it is not an 
Anglo-Saxon custom to write their deeds upon 
rocks. I daresay that the remains of a Cairo 
drainage system will be our most permanent 
record, unless they prove a thousand years hence 
that it was the work of the Hyksos kings. But 
here is the shore party come back." 

Down below they could here the mellow Irish 
accents of Mrs. Belmont and the deep voice of 
her husband, the iron-grey rifle-shot. Mr. Stuart, 
the fat Birmingham clergyman, was thrashing out 
a question of piastres with a noisy donkey-boy, and 
the others were joining in with chaff and advice. 
Then the hubbub died away, the party from 
above came down the ladder, there were " good- 
nights," the shutting of doors, and the little 
steamer lay silent, dark, and motionless in the 
shadow of the high Haifa bank. And beyond this 
one point of civilisation and of comfort there lay 
the limitless, savage, unchangeable desert, straw- 
coloured and dream-like in the moonlight, mottled 
over with the black shadows of the hills. 



CHAPTER III. 

" Stoppa ! Backa ! " cried the native pilot to the 
European engineer. 

The bluff bows of the stern - wheeler had 
squelched into the soft brown mud, and the 
current had swept the boat alongside the bank. 
The long gangway was thrown across, and the six 
tall soldiers of the Soudanese escort filed along 
it, their light-blue gold-trimmed zouave uniforms, 
and their jaunty yellow and red forage-caps, 
showing up bravely in the clear morning light. 
Above them, on the top of the bank, was ranged 
the line of donkeys, and the air was full of the 
clamour of the boys. In shrill strident voices, 
each was crying out the virtues of his own beast, 
and abusing that of his neighbour. 

Colonel Cochrane and Mr. Belmont stood 
together in the bows, each wearing the broad 
white puggareed hat of the tourist. Miss Adams 
and her niece leaned against the rail beside them. 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 45 

" Sorry your wife isn't coming, Belmont," said 
the Colonel. 

" I think she had a touch of the sun yesterday. 
Her head aches very badly." 

His voice was strong and thick like his figure. 

" I should stay to keep her company, Mr. 
Belmont," said the little American old maid; 
" but I learn that Mrs. Shlesinger finds the ride 
too long for her, and has some letters which she 
must mail to-day, so Mrs. Belmont will not be 
lonesome." 

" You're very good, Miss Adams. We shall be 
back, you know, by two o'clock." 

" Is that certain ? " 

" It must be certain, for we are taking no 
lunch with us, and we shall be famished by 
then." 

" Yes, I expect we shall be ready for a hock 
and seltzer at any rate," said the Colonel. " This 
desert dust gives a flavour to the worst wine." 

" Now, ladies and gentlemen ! " cried Mansoor, 
the dragoman, moving forward with something 
of the priest in his flowing garments and smooth, 
clean-shaven face. " We must start early that 



46 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

we may return before the meridial heat of the 
weather." He ran his dark eyes over the little 
group of his tourists with a paternal expression. 
" You take your green glasses, Miss Adams, for 
glare very great out in the desert. Ah, Mr. 
Stuart, I set aside very fine donkey for you 
— prize donkey, sir, always put aside for the 
gentleman of most weight. Never mind to take 
your monument ticket to-day. Now, ladies and 
gentlemen, if you please ! " 

Like a grotesque frieze the party moved one by 
one along the plank gangway and up the brown 
crumbling bank. Mr. Stephens led them, a thin, 
dry, serious figure, in an English straw hat. His 
red " Baedeker " gleamed under his arm, and in 
one hand he held a little paper of notes, as if it 
were a brief. He took Miss Sadie by one arm 
and her aunt by the other as they toiled up the 
bank, and the young girl's laughter rang frank 
and clear in the morning air as " Baedeker " came 
fluttering down at their feet. Mr. Belmont and 
Colonel Cochrane followed, the brims of their 
sun-hats touching as they discussed the relative 
advantages of the Mauser, the Lebel, and the 



THE TKAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 47 

Lee-Met ford. Behind them walked Cecil Brown, 
listless, cynical, self-contained. The fat clergy- 
man puffed slowly up the bank, with many gasping 
witticisms at his own defects. " I'm one of those 
men who carry everything before them," said he, 
glancing ruefully at his rotundity, and chuck- 
ling wheezily at his own little joke. Last of all 
came Headingly, slight and tall, with the student 
stoop about his shoulders, and Fardet, the good- 
natured, fussy, argumentative Parisian. 

" You see we have an escort to-day," he whis- 
pered to his companion. 

" So I observed." 

" Pah ! " cried the Frenchman, throwing out 
his arms in derision ; " as well have an escort 
from Paris to Versailles. This is all part of the 
play, Monsieur Headingly. It deceives no one, 
but it is part of the play. Pourquoi ces droles de 
militaires, dragoman, hein ? " 

It was the dragoman's role to be all things to 
all men, so he looked cautiously round before he 
answered, to make sure that the English were 
mounted and out of earshot. 

" C'est ridicule, monsieur ! " said he, shrugging 



48 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

his fat shoulders. " Mais que voulez-vous ? C'est 
I'ordre officiel Egyptien." 

" Egyptien ! Pah, Anglais, Anglais — toujour s 
Anglais!" cried the angry Frenchman. 

The frieze now was more grotesque than ever, 
but had changed suddenly to an equestrian one, 
sharply outlined against the deep-blue Egyptian 
sky. Those who have never ridden before have 
to ride in Egypt, and when the donkeys break 
into a canter, and the Nile Irregulars are at full 
charge, such a scene of flying veils, clutching 
hands, huddled swaying figures, and anxious faces 
is nowhere to be seen. Belmont, his square 
figure balanced upon a small white donkey, was 
waving his hat to his wife, who had come out 
upon the saloon-deck of the Korosko. Cochrane 
sat very erect with a stiff military seat, hands 
low, head high, and heels down, while beside 
him rode the young Oxford man, looking about 
him with drooping eyelids as if he thought the 
desert hardly respectable, and had his doubts 
about the Universe. Behind them the whole 
party was strung along the bank in varying stages 
of jolting and discomfort, a brown-faced, noisy 




isn't it just too lovely for anything?" CRIED SADIE. 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 51 

donkey-boy running after each donkey. Looking 
back, they could see the little lead-coloured stern- 
wheeler, with the gleam of Mrs. Belmont's hand- 
kerchief from the deck. Beyond ran the broad, 
brown river, winding down in long curves to 
where, five miles off, the square, white block- 
houses upon the black, ragged hills marked the 
outskirts of Wady Haifa, which had been their 
starting-point that morning, 

" Isn't it just too lovely for anything ? " cried 
Sadie joyously. " I've got a donkey that runs on 
casters, and the saddle is just elegant. Did you 
ever see anything so cunning as these beads and 
things round his neck ? You must make a 
memo, re donkey, Mr. Stephens. Isn't that 
correct legal English ? " 

Stephens looked at the pretty, animated, boyish 
face looking up at him from under the coquettish 
straw hat, and he wished that he had the courage 
to tell her in her own language that she was just 
too sweet for anything. But he feared above all 
things lest he should offend her, and so put an 
end to their present pleasant intimacy. So his 
compliment dwindled into a smile. 



52 THE TEAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

" You look very happy," said he. 

" Well, who could help feeling good with this 
dry, clear air, and the blue sky, and the crisp yellow 
sand, and a superb donkey to carry you ? I've just 
got everything in the world to make me happy." 

" Everything ? " 

" Well/everything I have any use for just now." 

" I suppose you never know what it is to be 
sad ? " 

" Oh, when I am miserable, I am just too 
miserable for words. I've sat and cried for days 
and days at Smith's College, and the other girls 
were just crazy to know what I was crying about, 
and guessing what the reason was that I wouldn't 
tell them, when all the time the real true reason 
was that I didn't know myself. You know how 
it comes like a great dark shadow over you, and 
you don't know why or wherefore, but you've just 
got to settle down to it and be miserable." 

" But you never had any real cause ? " 

" No, Mr. Stephen, I've had such a good time 
all my life that I really don't think, when I look 
back, that I ever had any real cause for sorrow." 

" Well, Miss Sadie, 1 hope with all my heart 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 53 

that you will be able to say the same when you 
are the same age as your aunt. Surely I hear 
her calling." 

" I wish, Mr. Stephens, you would strike my 
donkey-boy with your whip if he hits the donkey 
again," cried Miss Adams, jogging up on a high, 
raw-boned beast. " Hi, dragoman, Mansoor, you 
tell this boy that I won't have the animals ill 
used, and that he ought to be ashamed of him- 
self. Yes, you little rascal, you ought ! He's 
grinning at me like an advertisement for a tooth 
paste. Do you think, Mr. Stephens, that if I 
were to knit that black soldier a pair of woollen 
stockings he would be allowed to wear them ? 
The poor creature has bandages round his legs." 

" Those are his putties, Miss Adams," said 
Colonel Cochrane, looking back at her. " We 
have found in India that they are the best 
support to the leg in marching. They are very 
much better than any stocking." 

" Well, you don't say ! They remind me 
mostly of a sick horse. But it's elegant to have 
the soldiers with us, though Monsieur Fardet tells 
me there's nothing for us to be scared about." 



54 THE TEAGEDY OF THE KOEOSKO 

"That is only my opinion, Miss Adams," said 
the Frenchman hastily. " It may be that Colonel 
Cochrane thinks otherwise." 

"It is Monsieur Fardet's opinion against that of 
the officers who have the responsibility of caring 
for the safety of the frontier," said the Colonel 
coldly. "At least we will all agree that they 
have the effect of making the scene very much 
more picturesque." 

The desert upon their right lay in long curves 
of sand, like the dunes which might have fringed 
some forgotten primeval sea. Topping them they 
could see the black, craggy summits of the curious 
volcanic hills which rise upon the Libyan side. 
On the crest of the low sand-hills they would 
catch a glimpse every now and then of a tall, 
sky-blue soldier, walking swiftly, his rifle at the 
trail. For a moment the lank, warlike figure 
would be sharply silhouetted against the sky. 
Then he would dip into a hollow and disappear, 
while some hundred yards off another would show 
for an instant and vanish. 

" Wherever are they raised ? " asked Sadie, 
watching the moving figures. " They look to me 






THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 55 

just about the same tint as the hotel boys in the 
States." 

" I thought some question might arise about 
them," said Mr. Stephens, who was never so happy 
as Avhen he could anticipate some wish of the 
pretty American. " I made one or two references 
this morning in the ship's library. Here it is — 
re — that's to say, about black soldiers. I have it 
on my notes that they are from the ioth 
Soudanese battalion of the Egyptian army. They 
are recruited from the Dinkas and the Shilluks 
— two negroid tribes living to the south of the 
Dervish country, near the Equator." 

" How can the recruits come through the Der- 
vishes, then ? " asked Headingly sharply. 

" I dare say there is no such very great diffi- 
culty over that," said Monsieur Fardet, with a 
wink at the American. 

" The older men are the remains of the old 
black battalions. Some of them served with 
Gordon at Khartoum, and have his medal to 
show. The others are many of them deserters 
from the Mahdi's army," said the Colonel. 

"Well, so long as they are not wanted, they 



56 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

look right elegant in those blue jackets," Miss 
Adams observed. " But if there was any trouble, 
I guess we would wish they were less ornamental 
and a bit whiter." 

"I am not so sure of that, Miss Adams," said 
the Colonel. " I have seen these fellows in the 
field, and I assure you that I have the utmost 
confidence in their steadiness." 

" Well, I'll take your word without trying," 
said Miss Adams, with a decision which made 
every one smile. 

So far their road had lain along the side of 
the river, which was swirling down upon their left 
hand deep and strong from the cataracts above. 
Here and there the rush of the current was broken 
by a black shining boulder over which the foam 
was spouting. Higher up they could see the white 
gleam of the rapids, and the banks grew into 
rugged cliffs, which were capped by a peculiar, 
outstanding, semicircular rock. It did not require 
the dragoman's aid to tell the party that this was 
the famous landmark to which they were bound. 
A long, level stretch lay before them, and the 
donkeys took it at a canter. At the farther side 



IIM'-Hi 




HE POINTED UP WITH HIS DONKEY-WHIP. 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 59 

were scattered rocks, black upon orange ; and in 
the midst of them rose some broken shafts of 
pillars and a length of engraved wall, looking in 
its greyness and its solidity more like some work 
of Nature than of man. The fat, sleek dragoman 
had dismounted, and stood waiting in his petti- 
coats and his cover- coat for the stragglers to 
gather round him. 

" This temple, ladies and gentlemen," he cried, 
with the air of an auctioneer who is about to sell 
it to the highest bidder, " very fine example from 
the eighteenth dynasty. Here is the cartouche 
of Thotmes the Third," he pointed up with his 
donkey-whip at the rude, but deep, hieroglyphics 
upon the Avail above him. " He live sixteen 
hundred years before Christ, and this is made to 
remember his victorious exhibition into Meso- 
potamia. Here we have his history from the 
time that he was with his mother, until he return 
with captives tied to his chariot. In this you 
see him crowned with Lower Egypt, and with 
Upper Egypt offering up sacrifice in honour of 
his victory to the God Ammon-ra. Here he 
bring his captives before him, and he cut off each 



60 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

his right hand. In this corner you see little pile 
— all right hands." 

" My sakes, I shouldn't have liked to be here 
in those days," said Miss Adams. 

" Why, there's nothing altered," remarked Cecil 
Brown. " The East is still the East. I've no 
doubt that within a hundred miles, or perhaps a 
good deal less, from where you stand " 

" Shut up ! " whispered the Colonel, and the 
party shuffled on down the line of the wall with 
their faces up and their big hats thrown back- 
wards. The sun behind them struck the old 
grey masonry with a brassy glare, and carried on 
to it the strange black shadows of the tourists, 
mixing them up with the grim, high-nosed, 
square-shouldered warriors, and the grotesque, 
rigid deities who lined it. The broad shadow 
of the Keverend John Stuart, of Birmingham, 
smudged out both the heathen King and the god 
whom he worshipped. 

" What s this ? " he was asking in his wheezy 
voice, pointing up with a yellow Assouan cane. 

"That is a hippopotamus," said the drago- 
man; and the tourists all tittered, for there 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 61 

was just a suspicion of Mr. Stuart himself in the 
carving. 

" But it isn't bigger than a little pig," he pro- 
tested. " You see that the King is putting his 
spear through it with ease." 

" They make it small to show that it was a 
very small thing to the King," said the dragoman. 
" So you see that all the King's prisoners do not 
exceed his knee — which is not because he was so 
much taller, but so much more powerful. You 
see that he is bigger than his horse, because he is 
a king and the other is only a horse. The same 
way, these small women whom you see here and 
there are just his trivial little wives." 

" Well, now ! " cried Miss Adams indignantly. 
" If they had sculped that King's soul it would 
have needed a lens to see it. Fancy his allowing 
his wives to be put in like that." 

" If he did it now, Miss Adams," said the 
Frenchman, " he would have more fighting than 
ever in Mesopotamia. But time brings revenge. 
Perhaps the day will soon come when we have 
the picture of the big strong wife and the trivial 
little husband — Twin ? " 



62 THE TEAGEDY OF THE KOKOSKO 

Cecil Brown and Headingly had dropped 
behind, for the glib comments of the dragoman, 
and the empty, light-hearted chatter of the 
tourists jarred upon their sense of solemnity 
They stood in silence watching the grotesque 
procession, with its sun-hats and green veils, as 
it passed in the vivid sunshine down the front 
of the old grey wall.. Above them two crested 
hoopoes were fluttering and calling amid the 
ruins of the pylon. 

" Isn't it a sacrilege ? " said the Oxford man 
at last. 

"Well, now, I'm glad you feel that about it, 
because it's how it always strikes me," Headingly 
answered with feeling. " I'm not quite clear in 
my own mind how these things should be ap- 
proached — if they are to be approached at all — 
but I am sure this is not the way. On the 
whole, I prefer the ruins that I have not seen to 
those which I have." 

The young diplomatist looked up with his 
peculiarly bright smile, which faded away too 
soon into his languid, blast mask. 

" I've got a map," said the American, " and 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 63 

sometimes far away from anything in the very 
midst of the waterless, trackless desert, I see 
1 ruins ' marked upon it — or ' remains of a temple,' 
perhaps. For example, the temple of Jupiter 
Amnion, which was one of the most considerable 
shrines in the world, was hundreds of miles away 
back of anywhere. Those are the ruins, solitary, 
unseen, unchanging through the centuries, which 
appeal to one's imagination. But when I pre- 
sent a check at the door, and go in as if it were 
Barnum's show, all the subtle feeling of romance 
goes right out of it." 

" Absolutely ! " said Cecil Brown, looking over 
the desert with his dark, intolerant eyes. " If 
one could come wandering here alone — stumble 
upon it by chance, as it were — and find one's 
self in absolute solitude in the dim light of the 
temple, with these grotesque figures all round, it 
would be perfectly overwhelming. A man would 
be prostrated with wonder and awe. But when 
Belmont is puffing his bulldog pipe, and Stuart 
is wheezing, and Miss Sadie Adams is laugh- 
ing ■ 

" And that jay of a dragoman speaking his 



64 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

piece," said Headingly ; " I want to stand and 
think all the time, and I never seem to get the 
chance. I was ripe for manslaughter when I 
stood before the Great Pyramid, and couldn't get 
a quiet moment because they would boost me on 
to the top. I took a kick at one man which 
would have sent him to the top in one jump if I 
had hit meat. But fancy travelling all the way 
from America to see the pyramid, and then 
finding nothing better to do than to kick an 
Arab in front of it ! " 

The Oxford man laughed in his gentle, tired 
fashion. " They are starting again," said he, and 
the two hastened forwards to take their places at 
the tail of the absurd procession. 

Their route ran now among large, scattered 
boulders, and between stony, shingly hills. A 
narrow winding path curved in and out amongst 
the rocks. Behind them their view was cut off 
by similar hills, black and fantastic, like the slag- 
heaps at the shaft of a mine. A silence fell 
upon the little company, and even Sadie's bright 
face reflected the harshness of Nature. The 
escort had closed in, and marched beside them, 




A SILENCE FELL UPON THE LITTLE COMPANY. 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 67 

their boots scrunching among the loose black 
rubble. Colonel Cochrane and Belmont were 
still riding together in the van. 

" Do you know, Belmont," said the Colonel, in 
a low voice, " you may think me a fool, but I 
don't like this one little bit." 

Belmont gave a short gruff laugh. 

" It seemed all right in the saloon of the 
Korosko, but now that we are here we do seem 
rather up in the air," said he. " Still, you know, 
a party comes here every week, and nothing has 
ever gone wrong." 

" I don't mind taking my chances when I am 
on the war-path," the Colonel answered. " That's 
all straightforward and in the way of business. 
But when you have women with you, and a 
helpless crowd like this, it becomes really dread- 
ful. Of course, the chances are a hundred to 
one that we have no trouble ; but if we should 
have — well, it won't bear thinking about. The 
wonderful thing is their complete unconsciousness 
that there is any danger whatever." 

"Well, I like the English tailor-made dresses 
well enough for walking, Mr. Stephens," said Miss 



G8 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

Sadie from behind them. " But for an afternoon 
dress, I think the French have more style than 
the English. Your milliners have a more severe 
cut, and they don't do the cunning little ribbons 
and bows and things in the same way." 

The Colonel smiled at Belmont. 

" She is quite serene in her mind, at any rate," 
said he. " Of course, I wouldn't say what I think 
to any one but you, and I daresay it will all prove 
to be quite unfounded." 

" Well, I could imagine parties of Dervishes on 
the prowl," said Belmont. " But what I cannot 
imagine is that they should just happen to come 
to the pulpit rock on the very morning when we 
are due there." 

" Considering that our movements have been 
freely advertised, and that every one knows a 
week beforehand what our programme is, and 
where we are to be found, it does not strike me 
as being such a wonderful coincidence." 

" It is a very remote chance," said Belmont 
stoutly, but he was glad in his heart that his wife 
was safe and snug on board the steamer. 

And now they were clear of the rocks again, 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 69 

with a fine stretch of firm yellow sand extending 
to the very base of the conical hill which lay 
before them. " Ay-ah ! Ay-ah ! " cried the boys, 
whack came their sticks upon the flanks of the 
donkeys, which broke into a gallop, and away 
they all streamed over the plain. It was not 
until they had come to the end of the path 
which curves up the hill that the dragoman 
called a halt. 

" Now, ladies and gentlemen, we are arrived 
for the so famous pulpit rock of Abousir. From 
the summit you will presently enjoy a panorama 
of remarkable fertility. But first you will ob- 
serve that over the rocky side of the hill are 
everywhere cut the names of great men who 
have passed it in their travels, and some of these 
names are older than the time of Christ." 

" Got Moses ? " asked Miss Adams. 

" Auntie, I'm surprised at you ! " cried Sadie. 

" Well, my dear, he was in Egypt, and he was 
a great man, and he may have passed this way." 

" Moses's name very likely there, and the same 
with Herodotus," said the dragoman gravely. 
" Both have been long worn away. But there on 



70 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

the brown rock you will see Belzoni. And up 
higher is Gordon. There is hardly a name 
famous in the Soudan which you will not find, 
if you like. And now, with your permission, we 
shall take good-bye of our donkeys and walk up 
the path, and you will see the river and the desert 
from the summit of the top." 

A minute or two of climbing brought them out 
upon the semicircular platform which crowns the 
rock. Below them on the far side was a perpen- 
dicular black cliff, a hundred and fifty feet high, 
with the swirling, foam-streaked river roaring 
past its base. The swish of the water and the 
low roar as it surged over the mid-stream boulders 
boomed through the hot, stagnant air. Far up 
and far down they could see the course of the 
river, a quarter of a mile in breadth, and running 
very deep and strong, with sleek black eddies 
and occasional spoutings of foam. On the other 
side was a frightful wilderness of black, scattered 
rocks, which were the dibris carried down by the 
river at high flood. In no direction were there 
any signs of human beings or their dwellings. 

" On the far side," said the dragoman, waving 






THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 71 

his donkey- whip towards the east, "is the military 
lino which conducts Wady Haifa to Sarras. 
Sarras lies to the south, under that black hill. 
Those two blue mountains which you see very 
far away are in Dongola, more than a hundred 
miles from Sarras. The railway there is forty 
miles long, and has been much annoyed by the 
Dervishes, who are very glad to turn the rails 
into spears. The telegraph wires are also much 
appreciated thereby. Now, if you will kindly 
turn round, I will explain, also, what we see upon 
the other side." 

It was a view which, when once seen, must 
always haunt the mind. Such an expanse of 
savage and unrelieved desert might be part of 
some cold and burned-out planet rather than of 
this fertile and bountiful earth. Away and away 
it stretched to die into a soft, violet haze in the 
extremest distance. In the foreground the sand 
was of a bright golden yellow, which was quite 
dazzling in the sunshine. Here and there, in a 
scattered cordon, stood the six trusty negro 
soldiers leaning motionless upon their rifles, and 
each throwing a shadow which looked as solid as 



72 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

himself. But beyond this golden plain lay a low line 
of those black slag-heaps, with yellow sand-valleys 
winding between them. These in their turn 
were topped by higher and more fantastic hills, 
and these by others, peeping over each other's 
shoulders until they blended with that distant 
violet haze. None of these hills were of any 
height — a few hundred feet at the most — but 
their savage, saw-toothed crests, and their steep 
scarps of sun-baked stone, gave them a fierce 
character of their own. 

" The Libyan Desert," said the dragoman, with 
a proud wave of his hand. " The greatest desert 
in the world. Suppose you travel right west 
from here, and turn neither to the north nor to 
the south, the first houses you would come to 
would be in America. That make you home- 
sick, Miss Adams, I believe ? " 

But the American old maid had her attention 
drawn away by the conduct of Sadie, who had 
caught her arm by one hand and was pointing 
over the desert with the other. 

" Well, now, if that isn't too picturesque for 
anything ! " she cried, with a flush of excitement 




THEY LOOKED AT THE LONG STRING OF RED-TURBANED RIDERS. 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 75 

upon her pretty face. " Do look, Mr. Stephens ! 
That's just the one only thing we wanted to make 
it just perfectly grand. See the men upon the 
camels coming out from between those hills ! " 

They all looked at the long string of red- 
turbaned riders who were winding out of the 
ravine, and there fell such a hush that the buz- 
zing of the flies sounded quite loud upon their 
ears. Colonel Cochrane had lit a match, and 
he stood with it in one hand and the unlit 
cigarette in the other until the flame licked 
round his fingers. Belmont whistled. The drago- 
man stood staring with his mouth half-open, and 
a curious slaty tint in his full, red lips. The 
others looked from one to the other with an 
uneasy sense that there was something wrong. 
It was the Colonel who broke the silence. 

"By George, Belmont, I believe the hundred- 
to-one chance has come off ! " said he. 



CHAPTER IV 

" What's the meaning of this, Mansoor ? " cried 
Belmont harshly. " Who are these people, and 
why are you standing staring as if you had lost 
your senses ? " 

The dragoman made an effort to compose him- 
self, and licked his dry lips before he answered. 

" I do not know who they are," said he in a 
quavering voice. 

"Who they are?" cried the Frenchman. " You 
can see who they are. They are armed men 
upon camels, Ababdeh, Bishareen — Bedouins, in 
short, such as are employed by the Government 
upon the frontier." 

"Be Jove, he may be right, Cochrane," said 
Belmont, looking inquiringly at the Colonel. 
" Why shouldn't it be as he says ? why shouldn't 
these fellows be friendlies ? " 

" There are no friendlies upon this side of the 
river," said the Colonel abruptly ; " I am per- 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 77 

fectly certain about that. There is no use in 
mincing matters. We must prepare for the worst." 
But in spite of his words, they stood stock- 
still, in a huddled group, staring out over the 
plain. Their nerves were numbed by the sudden 
shock, and to all of them it was like a scene 
in a dream, vague, impersonal, and unreal. The 
men upon the camels had streamed out from 
a gorge which lay a mile or so distant on the 
side of the path along which they had travelled. 
Their retreat, therefore, was entirely cut off. It 
appeared, from the dust and the length of the 
line, to be quite an army which was emerging 
from the hills, for seventy men upon camels 
cover a considerable stretch of ground. Having 
reached the sandy plain, they very deliberately 
formed to the front, and then at the harsh call 
of a bugle they trotted forward in line, the parti- 
coloured figures all swaying and the sand smok- 
ing in a rolling yellow cloud at the heels of 
their camels. At the same moment the six 
black soldiers doubled in from the front with 
their Martinis at the trail, and snuggled down 
like well - trained skirmishers behind the rocks 



78 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

upon the haunch of the hill. Their breech 
blocks all snapped together as their corporal gave 
them the order to load. 

And now suddenly the first stupor of the ex- 
cursionists passed away, and was succeeded by a 
frantic and impotent energy. They all ran about 
upon the plateau of rock in an aimless, foolish 
flurry, like frightened fowls in a yard. They 
could not bring themselves to acknowledge that 
there was no possible escape for them. Again 
and again they rushed to the edge of the great 
cliff which rose from the river, but the youngest 
and most daring of them could never have de- 
scended it. The two women clung one on each 
side of the trembling Mansoor, with a feeling that 
he was officially responsible for their safety. 
When he ran up and down in his despera- 
tion, his skirts and theirs all fluttered together. 
Stephens, the lawyer, kept close to Sadie Adams, 
muttering mechanically, " Don't be alarmed, Miss 
Sadie ; don't be at all alarmed ! " though his own 
limbs were twitching with agitation. Monsieur 
Fardet stamped about with a guttural rolling of 
r's, glancing angrily at his companions as if they 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 79 

had in some way betrayed him ; while the fat 
clergyman stood with his umbrella up, staring 
stolidly with big, frightened eyes at the camel- 
men. Cecil Brown curled his small, prim mous- 
tache, and looked white, but contemptuous. The 
Colonel, Belmont, and the young Harvard graduate 
were the three most cool-headed and resourceful 
members of the party. 

" Better stick together," said the Colonel. 
" There's no escape for us, so we may as well 
remain united." 

" They've halted," said Belmont. 

"They are reconnoitring us. They know very 
well that there is no escape from them, and they are 
taking their time. I don't see what we can do." 

" Suppose we hide the women," Headingly sug- 
gested. " They can't know how many of us are 
here. When they have taken us, the women can 
come out of their hiding-place and make their 
way back to the boat." 

"Admirable!" cried Colonel Cochrane. "Ad- 
mirable ! This way, please, Miss Adams. Bring 
the ladies here, Mansoor. There is not an instant 
to be lost." 



80 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

There was a part of the plateau which was 
invisible from the plain, and here in feverish 
haste they built a little cairn. Many flaky slabs 
of stone were lying about, and it did not take 
long to prop the largest of these against a rock, 
so as to make a lean-to, and then to put two side- 
pieces to complete it. The slabs were of the 
same colour as the rock, so that to a casual 
glance the hiding-place was not very visible. 
The two ladies were squeezed into this, and they 
crouched together, Sadie's arms thrown round her 
aunt. When they had walled them up, the men 
turned with lighter hearts to see what was going 
on. As they did so there rang out the sharp, per- 
emptory crack of a rifle-shot from the escort, fol- 
lowed by another and another, but these isolated 
shots were drowned in the long, spattering roll 
of an irregular volley from the plain, and the 
air was full of the phit-phit-phit of the bullets. 
The tourists all huddled behind the rocks, with 
the exception of the Frenchman, who still 
stamped angrily about, striking his sun-hat with 
his clenched hand. Belmont and Cochrane 
crawled down to where the Soudanese soldiers 





YOU DO NO GOOD BY EXPOSING YOURSELF." 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 83 

were firing slowly and steadily, resting their rifles 
upon the boulders in front of them. 

The Arabs had halted about five hundred yards 
away, and it was evident from their leisurely 
movements that they were perfectly aware that 
there was no possible escape for the travellers. 
They had paused to ascertain their number be- 
fore closing in upon them. Most of them were 
firing from the backs of their camels, but a few 
had dismounted and were kneeling here and 
there — little shimmering white spots against the 
golden background. Their shots came some- 
times singly in quick, sharp throbs, and some- 
times in a rolling volley, with a sound like a 
boy's stick drawn across iron railings. The 
hill buzzed like a bee-hive, and the bullets 
made a sharp crackling as they struck against the 
rocks. 

"You do no good by exposing yourself," said 
Belmont, drawing Colonel Cochrane behind a 
large jagged boulder, which already furnished a 
shelter for three of the Soudanese. 

"A bullet is the best we have to hope for," 
said Cochrane grimly. "What an infernal fool 



84 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

I have been, Belmont, not to protest more ener- 
getically against this ridiculous expedition ! 1 
deserve whatever I get, but it is hard on these 
poor souls who never knew the danger." 

" I suppose there's no help for us ? " 

" Not the faintest." 

" Don't you think this firing might bring the 
troops up from Haifa ? " 

" They'll never hear it. It is a good six miles 
from here to the steamer. From that to Haifa 
would be another five." 

" Well, when we don't return, the steamer will 
give the alarm." 

" And where shall we be by that time ? " 

" My poor Norah ! My poor little Norah ! " 
muttered Belmont, in the depths of his grizzled 
moustache. 

" What do you suppose that they will do with 
us, Cochrane ? " he asked after a pause. 

" They may cut our throats, or they may take 
us as slaves to Khartoum. I don't know that 
there is much to choose. There's one of us out 
of his troubles anyhow." 

The soldier next them had sat down abruptly, 



THE TEAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 85 

and leaned forward over his knees. His move- 
ment and attitude were so natural that it was 
hard to realise that he had been shot through 
the head. He neither stirred nor groaned. His 
comrades bent over him for a moment, and 
then, shrugging their shoulders, they turned 
their dark faces to the Arabs once more. Bel- 
mont picked up the dead man's Martini and his 
ammunition-pouch. 

" Only three more rounds, Cochrane," said he, 
with the little brass cylinders upon the palm of 
his hand. "We've let them shoot too soon, and 
too often. We should have waited for the rush." 

"You're a famous shot, Belmont," cried the 
Colonel. " I've heard of you as one of the cracks. 
Don't you think you could pick off their leader ? " 

" Which is he ? " 

" As far as I can make out, it is that one on 
the white camel on their right front. I mean 
the fellow who is peering at us from under his 
two hands." 

Belmont thrust in his cartridge and altered 
the sights. " It's a shocking bad light for judg- 
ing distance," said he. " This is where the low 



86 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

point-blank trajectory of the Lee-Metford comes 
in useful. Well, we'll try him at five hundred." 
He fired, but there was no change in the white 
camel or the peering rider. 

" Did you see any sand fly ? " 

" No, I saw nothing." 

" I fancy I took my sight a trifle too full." 

" Try him again." 

Man and rifle and rock were equally steady, 
but again the camel and chief remained un- 
harmed. The third shot must have been nearer, 
for he moved a few paces to the right, as if he 
were becoming restless. Belmont threw the 
empty rifle down, with an exclamation of disgust. 

" It's this confounded light," he cried, and his 
cheeks flushed with annoyance. " Think of my 
wasting three cartridges in that fashion ! If I 
had him at Bisley I'd shoot the turban off him, 
but this vibrating glare means refraction. What's 
the matter with the Frenchman ? " 

Monsieur Fardet was stamping about the pla- 
teau with the gestures of a man who has been 
stung by a wasp. " 8cr6 nom ! S'crd nom ! " he 
shouted, showing his strong white teeth under 



,flM 



'yw^%~ 




I M DONE ! HE WHISPERED. 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 89 

his black waxed moustache. He wrung his right 
hand violently, and as he did so he sent a little 
spray of blood from his finger-tips. A bullet had 
chipped his wrist. Headingly ran out from the 
cover where he had been crouching, with the 
intention of dragging the demented Frenchman 
into a place of safety, but he had not taken three 
paces before he was himself hit in the loins, and 
fell with a dreadful crash among the stones. He 
staggered to his feet, and then fell again in the 
same place, floundering up and down like a horse 
which has broken its back. " I'm done ! " he 
whispered, as the Colonel ran to his aid, and 
then he lay still, with his china-white cheek 
against the black stones. When, but a year before, 
he had wandered under the elms of Cambridge, 
surely the last fate upon this earth which he 
could have predicted for himself would be that 
he should be slain by the bullet of a fanatical 
Mohammedan in the wilds of the Libyan Desert. 
Meanwhile the fire of the escort had ceased, 
for they had shot away their last cartridge. A 
second man had been killed, and a third — who 
was the corporal in charge — had received a bullet 



90 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

in his thigh. He sat upon a stone, tying up his 
injury with a grave, preoccupied look upon his 
wrinkled black face, like an old woman piecing 
together a broken plate. The three others 
fastened their bayonets with a determined 
metallic rasp and snap, and the air of men 
who intended to sell their lives dearly. 

" They're coming ! " cried Belmont, looking 
over the plain. 

" Let them come ! " the Colonel answered, 
putting his hands into his trouser-pockets. 
Suddenly he pulled one fist out, and shook it 
furiously in the air. " Oh, the cads ! the con- 
founded cads ! " he shouted, and his eyes were 
congested with rage. 

It was the fate of the poor donkey-boys which 
had carried the self-contained soldier out of his 
usual calm. During the firing they had remained 
huddled, a pitiable group, among the rocks at the 
base of the hill. Now upon the conviction that 
the charge of the Dervishes must come first upon 
them, they had sprung upon their animals with 
shrill, inarticulate cries of fear, and had galloped 
off across the plain. A small flanking-party of 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 91 

eight or ten camel-men had worked round while 
the firing had been going on, and these dashed 
in among the flying donkey-boys, hacking and 
hewing with a cold-blooded, deliberate ferocity. 
One little boy, in a flapping Galabeeah, kept 
ahead of his pursuers for a time, but the long 
stride of the camels ran him down, and an Arab 
thrust his spear into the middle of his stooping 
back. The small, white -clad corpses looked like 
a flock of sheep trailing over the desert. 

But the people upon the rock had no time 
to think of the cruel fate of the donkey-boys. 
Even the Colonel, after that first indignant out- 
burst, had forgotten all about them. The advanc- 
ing camel- men had trotted to the bottom of the 
hill, had dismounted, and leaving their camels 
kneeling, had rushed furiously onward. Fifty of 
them were clambering up the path and over the 
rocks together, their red turbans appearing and 
vanishing again as they scrambled over the 
boulders. Without a shot or a pause they 
surged over the three black soldiers, killing ono 
and stamping the other two down under their 
hurrying feet. So they burst on to the plateau 



92 THE TKAGEDY OF THE KOEOSKO 

at the top, where an unexpected resistance checked 
them for an instant. 

The travellers, nestling up against one another, 
had awaited, each after his own fashion, the com- 
ing of the Arabs. The Colonel, with his hands 
back in his trouser-pockets, tried to whistle out 
of his dry lips. Belmont folded his arms and 
leaned against a rock, with a sulky frown upon 
his lowering face. So strangely do our minds 
act that his three successive misses, and the 
tarnish to his reputation as a marksman, was 
troubling him more than his impending fate. 
Cecil Brown stood erect, and plucked nervously 
at the upturned points of his little prim mous- 
tache. Monsieur Fardet groaned over his wounded 
wrist. Mr. Stephens, in sombre impotence, shook 
his head slowly, the living embodiment of prosaic 
law and order. Mr. Stuart stood, his umbrella 
still over him, with no expression upon his heavy 
face, or in his staring brown eyes. Headingly 
lay with that china-white cheek resting motion- 
less upon the stones. His sun-hat had fallen off, 
and he looked quite boyish with his ruffled yellow 
hair and his unlined, clean-cut face. The drago- 




HE STRUCK AT THE SHRINKING, SNARLING SAVAGES. 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 95 

man sat upon a stone and played nervously 
with his donkey -whip. So the Arabs found 
them when they reached the summit of the 
hill. 

And then, just as the foremost rushed to lay 
hands upon them, a most unexpected incident 
arrested them. From the time of the first 
appearance of the Dervishes the fat clergyman 
of Birmingham had looked like a man in a cata- 
leptic trance. He had neither moved nor spoken. 
But now he suddenly woke at a bound into strenu- 
ous and heroic energy. It may have been the 
mania of fear, or it may have been the blood 
of some Berserk ancestor which stirred suddenly 
in his veins ; but he broke into a wild shout, 
and, catching up a stick, he struck right and 
left among the Arabs with a fury which was 
more savage than their own. One who helped 
to draw up this narrative has left it upon record 
that, of all the pictures which have been burned 
into his brain, there is none so clear as that of 
this man, his large face shining with perspiration, 
and his great body dancing about with unwieldy 
agility, as he struck at the shrinking, snarling 



96 THE TKAGEDY OF THE KOKOSKO 

savages. Then a spear-head flashed from behind 
a rock with a quick, vicious, upward thrust, the 
clergyman fell upon his hands and knees, and 
the horde poured over him to seize their un- 
resisting victims. Knives glimmered before their 
eyes, rude hands clutched at their wrists and 
at their throats, and then, with brutal and un- 
reasoning violence, they were hauled and pushed 
down the steep winding path to where the camels 
were waiting below. The Frenchman waved his 
unwounded hand as he walked. " Vive le Khalifa! 
Vive le Madhi ! " he shouted, until a blow from 
behind with the butt-end of a Remington beat 
him into silence. 

And now they were herded in at the base of 
the Abousir rock, this little group of modern 
types who had fallen into the rough clutch of 
the seventh century — for in all save the rifles 
in their hands there was nothing to distinguish 
these men from the desert warriors who first 
carried the crescent flag out of Arabia. The 
East does not change, and the Dervish raiders 
were not less brave, less cruel, or less fanatical 
than their forebears. They stood in a circle, 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 97 

leaning upon their guns and spears, and looking 
with exultant eyes at the dishevelled group of 
captives. They were clad in some approach to 
a uniform, red turbans gathered around the neck 
as well as the head, so that the fierce face looked 
out of a scarlet frame ; yellow, untanned shoes, 
and white tunics with square brown patches let 
into them. All carried rifles, and one had a 
small discoloured bugle slung over his shoulder. 
Half of them were negroes — fine, muscular men, 
with the limbs of a jet Hercules ; and the other 
half were Baggara Arabs — small, brown, and wiry, 
with little, vicious eyes, and thin, cruel lips. The 
chief was also a Baggara, but he was a taller man 
than the others, with a black beard which came 
down over his chest, and a pair of hard, cold 
eyes, Avhich gleamed like glass from under his 
thick, black brows. They were fixed now upon 
his captives, and his features were grave with 
thought. Mr. Stuart had been brought down, 
his hat gone, his face still flushed with anger, 
and his trousers sticking in one part to his leg. 
The two surviving Soudanese soldiers, their black 
faces and blue coats blotched with crimson, stood 



98 THE TKAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

silently at attention upon one side of this forlorn 
group of castaways. 

The chief stood for some minutes, stroking his 
black beard, while his fierce eyes glanced from 
one pale face to another along the miserable line 
of his captives. In a harsh, imperious voice 
he said something which brought Mansoor, the 
dragoman, to the front, with bent back and out- 
stretched supplicating palms. To his employers 
there had always seemed to be something comic 
in that napping skirt and short cover-coat above 
it ; but now, under the glare of the mid-day sun, 
with those faces gathered round them, it appeared 
rather to add a grotesque horror to the scene. 
The dragoman salaamed and salaamed like some 
ungainly automatic doll, and then, as the chief 
rasped out a curt word or two, he fell suddenly 
upon his face, rubbing his forehead into the sand, 
and napping upon it with his hands. 

" What's that, Cochrane ? " asked Belmont. 
" Why is he making an exhibition of himself ? " 

" As far as I can understand, it is all up with 
us," the Colonel answered. 

"But this is absurd," cried the Frenchman 




HE FELL SUDDENLY UPON HIS FACE. 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 101 

excitedly ; " why should these people wish any 
harm to me ? I have never injured them. On 
the other hand, I have always been their friend. 
If I could but speak to them, I would make them 
comprehend. Hola, dragoman, Mansoor ! " 

The excited gestures of Monsieur Fardet drew 
the sinister eyes of the Baggara chief upon him. 
Again he asked a curt question, and Mansoor, 
kneeling in front of him, answered it. 

" Tell him that I am a Frenchman, dragoman. 
Tell him that I am a friend of the Khalifa. Tell 
him that my countrymen have never had any 
quarrel with him, but that his enemies are also 
ours." 

" The chief asks what religion you call your 
own," said Mansoor. " The Khalifa, he says, has 
no necessity for any friendship from those who 
are infidels and unbelievers." 

"Tell him that in France we look upon all 
religions as good." 

" The chief says that none but a blaspheming 
dog and the son of a dog would say that all 
religions are one as good as the other. He says 
that if you are indeed the friend of the Khalifa, 



102 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

you will accept the Koran and become a true 
believer upon the spot. If you will do so he 
will promise on his side to send you alive to 
Khartoum." 

" And if not ? " 

"You will fare in the same way as the 
others." 

" Then you may make my compliments to 
monsieur the chief, and tell him that it is not 
the custom for Frenchmen to change their re- 
ligion under compulsion." 

The chief said a few words, and then turned 
to consult with a short, sturdy Arab at his 
elbow. 

" He says, Monsieur Fardet," said the drago- 
man, " that if you speak again he will make a 
trough out of you for the dogs to feed from. 
Say nothing to anger him, sir, for he is now 
talking what is to be done with us." 

" Who is he ? " asked the Colonel. 

" It is Ali Wad Ibrahim, the same who raided 
last year, and killed all of the Nubian village." 

" I've heard of him," said the Colonel. " He 
has the name of being one of the boldest and 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 103 

the most fanatical of all the Khalifa's leaders. 
Thank God that the women are out of his 
clutches." 

The two Arabs had been talking in that stern, 
restrained fashion which comes so strangely from 
a southern race. Now they both turned to the 
dragoman, who was still kneeling upon the sand. 
They plied him with questions, pointing first to 
one and then to another of their prisoners. Then 
they conferred together once more, and finally 
said something to Mansoor, with a contemptuous 
wave of the hand to indicate that he might convey 
it to the others. 

" Thank Heaven, gentlemen, I think that we 
are saved for the present time," said Mansoor, 
wiping away the sand which had stuck to his 
perspiring forehead. "Ali Wad Ibrahim says 
that though an unbeliever should have only the 
edge of the sword from one of the sons of the 
Prophet, yet it might be of more profit to the 
beit-el-mal at Omdurman if it had the gold 
which your people will pay for you. Until it 
comes you can work as the slaves of the Khalifa, 
unless he should decide to put you to death. 



104 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

You are to mount yourselves upon the spare 
camels and to ride with the party." 

The chief had waited for the end of the ex- 
planation. Now he gave a brief order, and a 
negro stepped forward with a long, dull-coloured 
sword in his hand. The dragoman squealed like 
a rabbit who sees a ferret, and threw himself 
frantically down upon the sand once more. 

" What is it, Cochrane ? " asked Cecil Brown — 
for the Colonel had served in the East, and was 
the only one of the travellers who had a smatter- 
ing of Arabic. 

"As far as I can make out, he says there is 
no use keeping the dragoman, as no one would 
trouble to pay a ransom for him, and he is too 
fat to make a good slave." 

" Poor devil ! " cried Brown. " Here, Cochrane, 
tell them to let him go. We can't let him be 
butchered like this in front of us. Say that 
we will find the money amongst us. I will be 
answerable for any reasonable sum." 

" I'll stand in as far as my means will allow," 
cried Belmont. 

"We will sign a joint bond or indemnity," 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 105 

said the lawyer. " If I had a paper and pencil 
I could throw it into shape in an instant, and 
the chief could rely upon its being perfectly 
correct and valid." 

But the Colonel's Arabic was insufficient, and 
Mansoor himself was too maddened by fear to 
understand the offer which was being made for 
him. The negro looked a question at the chief, 
and then his long black arm swung upwards 
and his sword hissed over his shoulder. But 
the dragoman had screamed out something 
which arrested the blow, and which brought the 
chief and the lieutenant to his side with a new 
interest upon their swarthy faces. The others 
crowded in also, and formed a dense circle around 
the grovelling, pleading man. 

The Colonel had not understood this sudden 
change, nor had the others fathomed the reason 
of it, but some instinct flashed it upon Stephens's 
horrified perceptions. 

" Oh, you villain ! " he cried furiously. " Hold 
your tongue, you miserable creature ! Be silent ! 
Better die — a thousand times better die ! " 

But it was too late, and already they could all 



106 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

see the base design by which the coward hoped 
to save his own life. He was about to betray 
the women. They saw the chief, with a brave 
man's contempt upon his stern face, make a sign 
of haughty assent, and then Mansoor spoke 
rapidly and earnestly, pointing up the hill. At 
a word from the Baggara, a dozen of the raiders 
rushed up the path and were lost to view upon 
the top. Then came a shrill cry, a horrible 
strenuous scream of surprise and terror, and an 
instant later the party streamed into sight again, 
dragging the women in their midst. Sadie, with 
her young, active limbs, kept up with them, 
as they sprang down the slope, encouraging her 
aunt all the while over her shoulder. The older 
lady, struggling amid the rushing white figures, 
looked with her thin limbs and open mouth like 
a chicken being dragged from a coop. 

The chiefs dark eyes glanced indifferently 
at Miss Adams, but gazed with a smouldering 
fire at the younger woman. Then he gave an 
abrupt order, and the prisoners were hurried in a 
miserable, hopeless drove to the cluster of kneel- 
ing camels. Their pockets had already been 




THE PARTY STREAMED INTO SIGHT AGAIN. 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 109 

ransacked, and the contents thrown into one 
of the camel-food bags, the neck of which was 
tied up by Ali Wad Ibrahim's own hands. 

" I say, Cochrane," whispered Belmont, looking 
with smouldering eyes at the wretched Mansoor, 
" I've got a little hip revolver which they have 
not discovered. Shall I shoot that cursed drago- 
man for giving away the women ? " 

The Colonel shook his head. 

" You had better keep it," said he, with a 
sombre face. " The women may find some other 
use for it before all is over." 



CHAPTER V 

The camels, some brown and some white, were 

kneeling in a long line, their champing jaws 

moving rhythmically from side to side, and their 

gracefully poised heads turning to right and left 

in a mincing, self-conscious fashion. Most of 

them were beautiful creatures, true Arabian 

trotters, with the slim limbs and finely turned 

necks which mark the breed ; but among them 

were a few of the slower, heavier beasts, with un- 

groomed skins, disfigured by the black scars of 

old firings. These were loaded with the doora 

and the waterskins of the raiders, but a few 

minutes sufficed to redistribute their loads and 

to make place for the prisoners. ' None of these 

had been bound with the exception of Mr. Stuart 

— for the Arabs, understanding that he was a 

clergyman, and accustomed to associate religion 

with violence, had looked upon his fierce outburst 

as quite natural, and regarded him now as the 
no 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 111 

most dangerous and enterprising of their captives. 
His hands were therefore tied together with a 
plaited camel-halter, but the others, including 
the dragoman and the two wounded blacks, were 
allowed to mount without any precaution against 
their escape, save that which was afforded by the 
slowness of their beasts. Then, with a shouting 
of men and a roaring of camels, the creatures 
were jolted on to their legs, and the long, 
straggling procession set off with its back to the 
homely river, and its face to the shimmering, 
violet haze, which hung round the huge sweep 
of beautiful, terrible desert, striped tiger- fashion 
with black rock and with golden sand. 

None of the white prisoners, with the exception 
of Colonel Cochrane, had ever been upon a camel 
before. It seemed an alarming distance to the 
ground when they looked down, and the curious 
swaying motion, with the insecurity of the saddle, 
made them sick and frightened. But their bodily 
discomfort was forgotten in the turmoil of bitter 
thoughts within. What a chasm gaped between 
their old life and their new ! And yet how short 
was the time and space which divided theml 



112 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

Less than an hour ago they had stood upon the 
summit of that rock, and had laughed and chat- 
tered, or grumbled at the heat and flies, becoming 
peevish at small discomforts. Headingly had been 
hypercritical over the tints of Nature. They could 
not forget his own tint as he lay with his cheek 
upon the black stone. Sadie had chattered about 
tailor-made dresses and Parisian chiffons. Now 
she was clinging, half-crazy, to the pommel of 
a wooden saddle, with suicide rising as a red 
star of hope in her mind. Humanity, reason, 
argument — all were gone, and there remained 
the brutal humiliation of force. And all the 
time, down there by the second rocky point, 
their steamer was waiting for them — their saloon, 
with the white napery and the glittering glasses, 
the latest novel, and the London papers. The 
least imaginative of them could see it so clearly : 
the white awning, Mrs. Shlesinger with her yellow 
sun-hat, Mrs. Belmont lying back in the canvas 
chair. There it lay almost in sight of them, 
that little floating chip broken off from home, 
and every silent, ungainly step of the camels 
was carrying them more hopelessly away from 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 113 

it. That very morning how beneficent Pro- 
vidence had appeared, how pleasant -was life ! — 
a little commonplace, perhaps, but so soothing 
and restful. And now ! 

The red head-gear, patched jibbehs, and yellow 
boots had already shown to the Colonel that these 
men were no wandering party of robbers, but a 
troop from the regular army of the Khalifa. 
Now, as they struck across the desert, they showed 
that they possessed the rude discipline which 
their work demanded. A mile ahead, and far 
out on either flank, rode their scouts, dipping and 
rising among the yellow sand-hills. Ali Wad 
Ibrahim headed the caravan, and his short, sturdy 
lieutenant brought up the rear. The main party 
straggled over a couple of hundred yards, and 
in the middle was the little, dejected clump of 
prisoners. No attempt was made to keep them 
apart, and Mr. Stephens soon contrived that his 
camel should be between those of the two 
ladies. 

" Don't be down-hearted, Miss Adams," said he. 
" This is a most indefensible outrage, but there 
can be no question that steps will be taken in the 



114 THE TEAGEDY OF THE KOKOSKO 

proper quarter to set the matter right. I am 
convinced that we shall be subjected to nothing 
worse than a temporary inconvenience. If it had 
not been for that villain Mansoor, you need not 
have appeared at all." 

It was shocking to see the change in the little 
Bostonian lady, for she had shrunk to an old 
woman in an hour. Her swarthy cheeks had 
fallen in, and her eyes shone wildly from sunken, 
darkened sockets. Her frightened glances were 
continually turned upon Sadie. There is surely 
some wrecker angel which ,can only gather her 
best treasures in moments of disaster. For here 
were all these worldlings going to their doom, 
and already frivolity and selfishness had passed 
away from them, and each was thinking and 
grieving only for the other. Sadie thought of 
her aunt, her aunt thought of Sadie, the men 
thought of the women, Belmont thought of his 
wife — and then he thought of something else 
also, and he kicked his camel's shoulder with his 
heel, until he found himself upon the near side of 
Miss Adams. 

"I've got something for you here," he whispered. 



if ^ 




ft/ sv 



pon't miss your grip of it. 



THE TKAGEDY OF THE KOBOSKO 117 

" We may be separated soon, so it is as well to 
make our arrangements. 

" Separated ! " wailed Miss Adams. 

" Don't speak loud, for that infernal Mansoor 
may give us away again. I hope it won't be so, 
but it might. We must be prepared for the 
worst. For example, they might determine to 
get rid of us men and to keep you." 

Miss Adams shuddered. 

" What am I to do ? For God's sake tell me 
what I am to do, Mr. Belmont ! I am an old 
woman. I have had my day. I could stand it 
if it was only myself. But Sadie — I am clean 
crazed when I think of her. There's her mother 

waiting at home, and I ." She clasped her 

thin hands together in the agony of her thoughts. 

" Put your hand out under your dust-cloak," 
said Belmont, sidling his camel up against hers. 
" Don't miss your grip of it. There ! Now hide 
it in your dress, and you'll always have a key to 
unlock any door." 

Miss Adams felt what it was which he had 
slipped into her hand, and she looked at him for 
a moment in bewilderment. Then she pursed 



118 THE TEAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

up her lips and shook her stern, brown face in 
disapproval. But she pushed the little pistol into 
its hiding-place, all the same, and she rode with 
her thoughts in a whirl. Could this indeed be 
she, Eliza Adams, of Boston, whose narrow, happy 
life had oscillated between the comfortable house 
in Commonwealth Avenue and the Tremont Pres- 
byterian Church ? Here she was, hunched upon 
a camel, with her hand upon the butt of a pistol, 
and her mind weighing the justifications of 
murder. Oh, life, sly, sleek, treacherous life, 
how are we ever to trust you ? Show us your 
worst and we can face it, but it is when you 
are sweetest and smoothest that we have most 
to fear from you. 

" At the worst, Miss Sadie, it will only be a 
question of ransom," said Stephens, arguing 
against his own convictions. " Besides, we are 
still close to Egypt, far away from the Dervish 
country. There is sure to be an energetic 
pursuit. You must try not to lose your courage, 
and to hope for the best." 

"No, I am not scared, Mr. Stephens," said 
Sadie, turning towards him a blanched face which 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOBOSKO 119 

belied her words. " We're all in God's hands, and 
surely He won't be cruel to us. It is easy to talk 
about trusting Him when things are going well, 
but now is the real test. If He's up there behind 

that blue heaven " 

" He is," said a voice behind them, and they 
found that the Birmingham clergyman had joined 
the party. His tied hands clutched on to his 
Makloofa saddle, and his fat body swayed danger- 
ously from side to side with every stride of the 
camel. His wounded leg was oozing with blood 
and clotted with flies, and the burning desert sun 
beat down upon his bare head, for he had lost 
both hat and umbrella in the scuffle. A rising 
fever flecked his large, white cheeks with a touch 
of colour, and brought a light into his brown ox- 
eyes. He had always seemed a somewhat gross 
and vulgar person to his fellow-travellers. Now, 
this bitter healing draught of sorrow had trans- 
formed him. He was purified, spiritualised, ex- 
alted. He had become so calmly strong that he 
made the others feel stronger as they looked upon 
him. He spoke of life and of death, of the 
present, and their hopes of the future ; and the 



120 THE TKAGEDY OF THE KOKOSKO 

black cloud of their misery began to show a 
golden rift or two. Cecil Brown shrugged his 
shoulders, for he could not change in an hour the 
convictions of his life ; but the others, even Fardet, 
the Frenchman, were touched and strengthened. 
They all took off their hats when he prayed. 
Then the Colonel made a turban out of his red 
silk cummerbund, and insisted that Mr. Stuart 
should wear it. With his homely dress and 
gorgeous headgear, he looked like a man who 
has dressed up to amuse the children. 

And now the dull, ceaseless, insufferable tor- 
ment of thirst was added to the aching weariness 
which came from the motion of the camels. The 
sun glared down upon them, and then up again 
from the yellow sand, and the great plain shim- 
mered and glowed until they felt as if they were 
riding over a cooling sheet of molten metal. 
Their lips were parched and dried, and their 
tongues like tags of leather. They lisped curi- 
ously in their speech, for it was only the vowel 
sounds which would come without an effort. 
Miss Adams's chin had dropped upon her chest, 
and her great hat concealed her face. 




TIPPY TILLY," SAID HE. 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 123 

"Auntie will faint if she does not get water," 
said Sadie. " Oh, Mr. Stephens, is there nothing 
we could do ? " 

The Dervishes riding near were all Baggara 
with the exception of one negro — an uncouth 
fellow with a face pitted with smallpox. His 
expression seemed good-natured when compared 
with that of his Arab comrades, and Stephens 
ventured to touch his elbow and to point to his 
water-skin, and then to the exhausted lady. • The 
negro shook his head brusquely, but at the same 
time he glanced significantly towards the Arabs, 
as if to say that, if it were not for them, he 
might act differently. Then he laid his black 
forefinger upon the breast of his jibbeh. 

" Tippy Tilly," said he. 

" What's that ? " asked Colonel Cochrane. 

" Tippy Tilly," repeated the negro, sinking his 
voice as if he wished only the prisoners to hear 
him. 

The Colonel shook his head. 

" My Arabic won't bear much strain. I don't 
know what he is saying," said he. 

" Tippy Tilly. Hicks Pasha," the negro repeated. 



124 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

" I believe the fellow is friendly to us, but 
I can't quite make him out," said Cochrane to 
Belmont. "Do you think that he means that 
his name is Tippy Tilly, and that he killed Hicks 
Pasha ? " 

The negro showed his great white teeth at 
hearing his own words coming back to him. 
" Aiwa ! " said he. " Tippy Tilly — Bimbashi 
Mormer — Bourn ! " 

" By Jove, I've got it ! " cried Belmont. " He's 
trying to speak English. Tippy Tilly is as near 
as he can get to Egyptian Artillery. He has 
served in the Egyptian Artillery under Bimbashi 
Mortimer. He was taken prisoner when Hicks 
Pasha was destroyed, and had to turn Dervish to 
save his skin. How's that ? " 

The Colonel said a few words of Arabic and 
received a reply, but two of the Arabs closed up, 
and the negro quickened his pace and left them. 

" You are quite right," said the Colonel. " The 
fellow is friendly to us, and would rather fight for 
the Khedive than for the Khalifa. I don't know 
that he can do us any good, but I've been in 
worse holes than this, and come out right side 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 125 

up. After all, we are not out of reach of pursuit, 
and won't be for another forty-eight hours." 

Belmont calculated the matter out in his slow, 
deliberate fashion. 

" It was about twelve that we were on the 
rock," said he. " They would become alarmed 
aboard the steamer if we did not appear at two." 

"Yes," the Colonel interrupted, "that was to 
be our lunch hour. I remember saymg that 
when I came back I would have — O Lord, it's 
best not to think of it ! " 

" The reis was a sleepy old crock," Belmont 
continued, " but I have absolute confidence in 
the promptness and decision of my wife. She 
would insist upon an immediate alarm being 
given. Suppose they started back at two-thirty, 
they should be at Haifa by three, since the 
journey is down stream. How long did they 
say that it took to turn out the Camel Corps ? " 

" Give them an hour." 

" And another hour to get them across the 
river. They would be at the Abousir Rock and 
pick up the tracks by six o'clock. After that 
it is a clear race. We are only four hours 



126 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

ahead, and some of these beasts are very spent. 
We may be saved yet, Cochrane ! " 

" Some of us may. I don't expect to see the 
padre alive to-morrow, nor Miss Adams either. 
They are not made for this sort of thing either 
of them. Then again we must not forget that 
these people have a trick of murdering their 
prisoners when they see that there is a chance 
of a rescue. See here, Belmont, in case you get 
back and I don't, there's a matter of a mortgage 
that I want you to set right for me." They rode 
on with their shoulders inclined to each other, 
deep in the details of business. 

The friendly negro who had talked of himself 
as Tippy Tilly had managed to slip a piece of 
cloth soaked in water into the hand of Mr. 
Stephens, and Miss Adams had moistened her 
lips with it. Even the few drops had given 
her renewed strength, and now that the first 
crushing shock was over, her wiry, elastic, Yankee 
nature began to reassert itself. 

" These people don't look as if they would 
harm us, Mr. Stephens," said she. " I guess 
they have a working religion of their own, such 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 127 

as it is, and that what's wrong to us is wrong 
to them." 

Stephens shook his head in silence. He had 
seen the death of the donkey-boys, and she had 
not. 

" Maybe we are sent to guide them into a 
better path," said the old lady. " Maybe we are 
specially singled out for a good work among 
them." 

If it were not for her niece her energetic and 
enterprising temperament was capable of glory- 
ing in the chance of evangelising Khartoum, and 
turning Omdurman into a little well-drained 
broad-avenued replica of a New England town. 

" Do you know what I am thinking of all 
the time ? " said Sadie. " You remember that 
temple that we saw— when was it ? Why, it 
was this morning." 

They gave an exclamation of surprise, all three 
of them. Yes, it had been this morning; and 
it seemed away and away in some dim past 
experience of their lives, so vast was the change, 
so new and so overpowering the thoughts which 
had come between. They rode in silence, full 



128 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

of this strange expansion of time, until at last 
Stephens reminded Sadie that she had left her 
remark unfinished. 

" Oh yes ; it was the wall picture on that 
temple that I was thinking of. Do you remem- 
ber the poor string of prisoners who are being 
dragged along to the feet of the great king — 
how dejected they looked among the warriors 
who led them ? Who could — who could have 
thought that within three hours the same fate 

should be our own ? And Mr. Headingly ," 

she turned her face away and began to cry. 

" Don't take on, Sadie," said her aunt ; " re- 
member what the minister said just now, that 
we are all right there in the hollow of God's 
hand. Where do you think we are going, Mr. 
Stephens 1 " 

The red edge of his Baedeker still projected 
from the lawyer's pocket, for it had not been 
worth their captor's while to take it. He glanced 
down at it. 

" If they will only leave me this, I will look 
up a few references when we halt. I have a 
general idea of the country, for I drew a small 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 129 

map of it the other day. The river runs from 
south to north, so we must be travelling almost 
due west. I suppose they feared pursuit if they 
kept too near the Nile bank. There is a caravan 
route, I remember, which runs parallel to the 
river, about seventy miles inland. If we continue 
in this direction for a day we ought to come to 
it. There is a line of wells through which it 
passes. It comes out at Assiout, if I remember 
right, upon the Egyptian side. On the other 
side, it leads away into the Dervish country — 
so, perhaps — — " 

His words were interrupted by a high, eager 
voice, which broke suddenly into a torrent of 
jostling words, words without meaning, pouring 
strenuously out in angry assertions and foolish 
repetitions. The pink h#d deepened to scarlet 
upon Mr. Stuart's cheeks, his eyes were vacant 
but brilliant, and he gabbled, gabbled, gabbled 
as he rode. Kindly mother Nature ! she will 
not let her children be mishandled too far. 
" This is too much," she says ; " this wounded 
leg, these crusted lips, this anxious, weary mind. 
Come away for a time, until your body becomes 



130 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

more habitable." And so she coaxes the mind 
away into the Nirvana of delirium, while the 
little cell-workers tinker and toil within to get 
things better for its home-coming. When you 
see the veil of cruelty which nature wears, try 
and peer through it, and you will sometimes 
catch a glimpse of a very homely, kindly face 
behind. 

The Arab guards looked askance at this sudden 
outbreak of the clergyman, for it verged upon 
lunacy, and lunacy is to them a fearsome and 
supernatural thing. One of them rode forward 
and spoke with the Emir. When he returned 
he said something to his comrades, one of whom 
closed in upon each side of the minister's camel, 
so as to prevent him from falling. The friendly 
negro sidled his beast up to the Colonel, and 
whispered to him. 

" We are going to halt presently, Belmont," 
said Cochrane. 

" Thank God ! They may give us some water. 
We can't go on like this." 

" I told Tippy Tilly that, if he could help us, 
we would turn him into a Bimbashi when we 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 131 

got him back into Egypt. I think he's willing 
enough if he only had the power. By Jove, 
Belmont, do look back at the river." 

Their route, which had lain through sand- 
strewn khors with jagged, black edges — places 
up which one would hardly think it possible 
that a camel could climb — opened out now on 
to a hard, rolling plain, covered thickly with 
rounded pebbles, dipping and rising to the violet 
hills upon the horizon. So regular were the 
long, brown pebble-strewn curves, that they 
looked like the dark rollers of some monstrous 
ground-swell. Here and there a little straggling, 
sage-green tuft of camel-grass sprouted up be- 
tween the stones. Brown plains and violet hills 
— nothing else in front of them ! Behind lay 
the black jagged rocks through which they had 
passed with orange slopes of sand, and then 
far away a thin line of green to mark the 
course of the river. How cool and beautiful 
that green looked in the stark, abominable 
wilderness ! On one side they could see the 
high rock — the accursed rock which had tempted 
them to their ruin. On the other the river 



132 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

curved, and the sun gleamed upon the water. 
Oh, that liquid gleam, and the insurgent animal 
cravings, the brutal primitive longings, which 
for the instant took the soul out of all of 
them ! They had lost families, countries, liberty, 
everything, but it was only of water, water, 
water, that they could think. Mr. Stuart in 
his delirium began roaring for oranges, and it 
was insufferable for them to have to listen to 
him. Only the rough, sturdy Irishman rose 
superior to that bodily craving. That gleam of 
river must be somewhere near Haifa, and his 
wife might be upon the very water at which 
he looked. He pulled his hat over his eyes, 
and rode in gloomy silence, biting at his strong, 
iron-grey moustache. 

Slowly the sun sank towards the west, and 
their shadows began to trail along the path 
where their hearts would go. It was cooler, 
and a desert breeze had sprung up, whispering 
over the rolling, stone-strewed plain. The Emir 
at their head had called his lieutenant to his 
side, and the pair had peered about, their eyes 
shaded by their hands, looking for some land- 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 135 

mark. Then, with a satisfied grunt, the chiefs 
camel had seemed to break short off at its 
knees, and then at its hocks, going down in 
three curious, broken-jointed jerks until its 
stomach was stretched upon the ground. As 
each succeeding camel reached the spot it lay 
down also, until they were all stretched in one 
long line. The riders sprang off, and laid out 
the chopped tibbin upon cloths in front of them, 
for no well-bred camel will eat from the ground. 
In their gentle eyes, their quiet, leisurely way 
of eating, and their condescending, mincing 
manner, there was something both feminine and 
genteel, as though a party of prim old maids 
had foregathered in the heart of the Libyan 
Desert. 

There was no interference with the prisoners, 
either male or female, for how could they escape 
in the centre of that huge plain ? The Emir 
came towards them once, and stood combing out 
his blue-black beard with his fingers, and looking 
thoughtfully at them out of his dark, sinister 
eyes. Miss Adams saw with a shudder that it 
was always upon Sadie that his gaze was fixed. 



136 THE TKAGEDY OF THE KOEOSKO 

Then, seeing their distress, he gave an order, and 
a negro brought a water-skin, from which he 
gave each of them about half a tumblerful. 
It was hot and muddy, and tasted of leather, 
but oh how delightful it was to their parched 
palates ! The Emir said a few abrupt words to 
the dragoman, and left. 

" Ladies and gentlemen," Mansoor began, with 
something of his old consequential manner ; but 
a glare from the Colonel's eyes struck the words 
from his lips, and he broke away into a long, 
whimpering excuse for his conduct. 

" How could I do anything otherwise," he 
wailed, " with the very knife at my throat ? " 

"You will have the very rope round your 
throat if we all see Egypt again," growled 
Cochrane savagely. " In the meantime " 

" That's all right, Colonel," said Belmont. 
" But for our own sakes we ought to know what 
the chief has said." 

" For my part I'll have nothing to do with 
the blackguard." 

" I think that that is going too far. We 
are bound to hear what he has to say." 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 137 

Cochrane shrugged his shoulders. Privations 
had made him irritable, and he had to bite his 
lip to keep down a bitter answer. He walked 
slowly away, with his straight-legged military 
stride. 

" What did he say, then ? " asked Belmont, 
looking at the dragoman with an eye which was 
as stern as the Colonel's. 

" He seems to be in a somewhat better manner 
than before. He said that if he had more water 
you should have it, but that he is himself short in 
supply. He said that to-morrow we shall come 
to the wells of Selimah, and everybody shall have 
plenty — and the camels too." 

" Did he say how long we stopped here ? " 

" Very little rest, he said, and then forwards ! 
Oh, Mr. Belmont " 

" Hold your tongue ! " snapped the Irishman, 
and began once more to count times and dis- 
tances. If it all worked out as he expected, if 
his wife had insisted upon the indolent reis 
giving an instant alarm at Haifa, then the pur- 
suers should be already upon their track. The 
Camel Corps or the Egyptian Horse would travel 



138 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

by moonlight better and faster than in the day- 
time. He knew that it was the custom at Haifa 
to keep at least a squadron of them all ready 
to start at any instant. He had dined at the 
mess, and the officers had told him how quickly 
they could take the field. They had shown 
him the water-tanks and the food beside each 
of the beasts, and he had admired the complete- 
ness of the arrangements, with little thought as 
to what it might mean to him in the future. It 
would be at least an hour before they would all 
get started again from their present halting-place. 
That would be a clear hour gained. Perhaps by 

next morning 

And then, suddenly, his thoughts were terribly 
interrupted. The Colonel, raving like a madman, 
appeared upon the crest of the nearest slope, with 
an Arab hanging on to each of his wrists. His 
face was purple with rage and excitement, and 
he tugged and bent and writhed in his furious 
efforts to get free. " You cursed murderers ! " he 
shrieked, and then, seeing the others in front 
of him, " Belmont," he cried, " they've killed 
Cecil Brown." 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 139 

What had happened was this. In his conflict 
with his own ill-humour, Cochrane had strolled 
over this nearest crest, and had found a group 
of camels in the hollow beyond, with a little 
knot of angry, loud-voiced men beside them. 
Brown was the centre of the group, pale, heavy- 
eyed, with his upturned, spiky moustache and 
listless manner. They had searched his pockets 
before, but now they were determined to tear off 
all his clothes in the hope of finding something 
which he had secreted. A hideous negro with 
silver bangles in his ears, grinned and jabbered 
in the young diplomatist's impassive face. There 
seemed to the Colonel to be something heroic 
and almost inhuman in that white calm, and 
those abstracted eyes. His coat was already 
open, and the negro's great black paw flew up 
to his neck and tore his shirt down to the waist. 
And at the sound of that r-r-rip, and at the 
abhorrent touch of those coarse fingers, this man 
about town, this finished product of the nine- 
teenth century, dropped his life- traditions and 
became a savage facing a savage. His face 
flushed, his lips curled back, he chattered his 



140 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

teeth like an ape, and his eyes — those indolent 
eyes which had always twinkled so placidly — 
were gorged and frantic. He threw himself upon 
the negro, and struck him again and again, feebly 
but viciously, in his broad, black face. He hit 
like a girl, round arm, with an open palm. The 
man winced away for an instant, appalled by 
this sudden blaze of passion. Then with an 
impatient, snarling cry, he slid a knife from his 
long loose sleeve and struck upwards under the 
whirling arm. Brown sat down at the blow and 
began to cough — to cough as a man coughs who 
has choked at dinner, furiously, ceaselessly, spasm 
after spasm. Then the angry red cheeks turned 
to a mottled pallor, there were liquid sounds in 
his throat, and, clapping his hand to his mouth, 
he rolled over on to his side. The negro, with a 
brutal grunt of contempt, slid his knife up his 
sleeve once more, while the Colonel, frantic with 
impotent anger, was seized by the bystanders, 
and dragged, raving with fury, back to his forlorn 
party. His hands were lashed with a camel- 
halter, and he lay at last, in bitter silence, beside 
the delirious Nonconformist. 




HE ROLLED OVER ON TO HIS SIDE. 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 143 

So Headingly was gone, and Cecil Brown was 
gone, and their haggard eyes were turned from 
one pale face to another, to know which they 
should lose next of that frieze of light-hearted 
riders who had stood out so clearly against the 
blue morning sky, when viewed from the deck- 
chairs of the Korosko. Two gone out of ten, and 
a third out of his mind. The pleasure trip was 
drawing to its climax. 

Fardet, the Frenchman, was sitting alone with 
his chin resting upon his hands, and his elbows 
upon his knees, staring miserably out over the 
desert, when Belmont saw him start suddenly 
and prick up his head like a dog who hears a 
strange step. Then, with clenched fingers, he 
bent his face forward and stared fixedly towards 
the black eastern hills through which they had 
passed. Belmont followed his gaze, and, yes— yes 
— there was something moving there ! He saw 
the twinkle of metal, and the sudden gleam 
and flutter of some white garment. A Dervish 
vedette upon the flank turned his camel twice 
round as a danger signal, and discharged his 
rifle in the air. The echo of the crack had 



144 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

hardly died away before they were all in* then- 
saddles, Arabs and negroes. Another instant, 
and the camels were on their feet and moving 
slowly towards the point of alarm. Several 
armed men surrounded the prisoners, slipping 
cartridges into their Remingtons as a hint to 
them to remain still. 

" By Heaven, they are men on camels ! " cried 
Cochrane, his troubles all forgotten as he strained 
his eyes to catch sight of these new-comers. " I 
do believe that it is our own people." In the 
confusion he had tugged his hands free from 
the halter which bound them. 

" They've been smarter than I gave them 
credit for," said Belmont, his eyes shining from 
under his thick brows. " They are here a long 
two hours before we could have reasonably ex- 
pected them. Hurrah, Monsieur Fardet, ca va 
bien, nest ce pas ? " 

" Hurrah, hurrah! merveilleusement bien ! Vivent 
les Anglais ! Vivent les Anglais ! " yelled the ex- 
cited Frenchman, as the head of a column of 
camelry began to wind out from among the 
rocks. 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 145 

" See here, Belmont," cried the Colonel. 
" These fellows will want to shoot us if they 
see it is all up. I know their ways, and we 
must be ready for it. Will you be ready to jump 
on the fellow with the blind eye ? and I'll take 
the big nigger, if I can get my arms round him. 
Stephens, you must do what you can. You, 
Fardet, comprenez vous ? II est necessaire to plug 
these Johnnies before they can hurt us. You, 
dragoman, tell those two Soudanese soldiers that 
they must be ready — but, but " . . . . his words 
died into a murmur, and he swallowed once or 
twice. "These are Arabs," said he, and it 
sounded like another voice. 

Of all the bitter day, it was the very 
bitterest moment. Happy Mr. Stuart lay upon 
the pebbles with his back against the ribs of 
his camel, and chuckled consumedly at some 
joke which those busy little cell- workers had 
come across in their repairs. His fat face was 
wreathed and creased with merriment. But the 
others, how sick, how heart-sick, were they all ! 
The women cried. The men turned away in 
that silence which is beyond tears. Monsieur 



146 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

Fardet fell upon his face, and shook with dry 
sobbings. 

The Arabs were firing their rifles as a welcome 
to their friends, and the others as they trotted 
their camels across the open returned the salutes 
and waved their rifles and lances in the air. 
They were a smaller band than the first one — 
not more than thirty — but dressed in the same 
red headgear and patched jibbehs. One of them 
carried a small white banner with a scarlet text 
scrawled across it. But there was something 
there which drew the eyes and the thoughts of 
the tourists away from everything else. The 
same fear gripped at each of their hearts, and 
the same impulse kept each of them silent. 
They stared at a swaying white figure half seen 
amidst the ranks of the desert warriors. 

" What's that they have in the middle of 
them ? " cried Stephens at last. " Look, Miss 
Adams ! Surely it is a woman ! " 

There was something there upon a camel, 
but it was difficult to catch a glimpse of it. 
And then suddenly, as the two bodies met, the 
riders opened out, and they saw it plainly. 




NORAH, DARLING," HE SHOUTED, "KEEP YOUR HEART UP ! " 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 149 

" It's a white woman ! " 

" The steamer has been taken ! " 

Belmont gave a cry that sounded high above 
everything. 

" Norah, darling," he shouted, " keep your heart 
up ! I'm here, and it is all well ! " 



CHAPTER VI 

So the Korosko had been taken, and the chances 
of rescue upon which they had reckoned — all 
those elaborate calculations of hours and distances 
— were as unsubstantial as the mirage which 
shimmered upon the horizon. There would be no 
alarm at Haifa until it was found that the steamer 
did not return in the evening. Even now, when 
the Nile was only a thin green band upon the 
farthest horizon, the pursuit had probably not 
begun. In a hundred miles, or even less, they 
would be in the Dervish country. How small, 
then, was the chance that the Egyptian forces 
could overtake them. They all sank into a 
silent, sulky despair, with the exception of 
Belmont, who was held back by the guards as 
he strove to go to his wife's assistance. 

The two bodies of camel-men had united, and 
the Arabs, in their grave, dignified fashion, were 
exchanging salutations and experiences, while the 

150 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 151 

negroes grinned, chattered, and shouted, with the 
careless good-humour which even the Koran has 
not been able to alter. The leader of the new- 
comers was a greybeard, a worn, ascetic, high- 
nosed old man, abrupt and fierce in his manner, 
and soldierly in his bearing. The dragoman 
groaned when he saw him, and flapped his hands 
miserably with the air of a man who sees trouble 
accumulating upon trouble. 

" It is the Emir Abderrahman," said he. " I 
fear now that we shall never come to Khartoum 
alive." 

The name meant nothing to the others, but 
Colonel Cochrane had heard of him as a monster 
of cruelty and fanaticism, a red-hot Moslem of 
the old fighting, preaching dispensation, who 
never hesitated to carry the fierce doctrines of 
the Koran to their final conclusions. He and 
the Emir Wad Ibrahim conferred gravely together, 
their camels side by side, and their red turbans 
inclined inwards, so that the black beard mingled 
with the white one. Then they both turned and 
stared long and fixedly at the poor, head- hanging 
huddle of prisoners. The younger man pointed 



152 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

and explained, while his senior listened with a 
sternly impassive face. 

" Who's that nice-looking old gentleman in the 
white beard ? " asked Miss Adams, who had been 
the first to rally from the bitter disappointment. 

" That is their leader now," Cochrane answered. 

" You don't say that he takes command over 
that other one ? " 

" Yes, lady," said the dragoman ; " he is now 
the head of all." 

"Well, that's good for us. He puts me in 
mind of Elder Mathews who was at the Presby- 
terian Church in Minister Scott's time. Any- 
how, I had rather be in his power than in the 
hands of that black-haired one with the flint 
eyes. Sadie, dear, you feel better now its cooler, 
don't you ? " 

" Yes, auntie ; don't you fret about me. How 
are you yourself ? " 

" Well, I'm stronger in faith than I was. I set 
you a poor example, Sadie, for I was clean crazed 
at first at the suddenness of it all, and at think- 
ing of what your mother, who trusted you to me, 
would think about it. My land, there'll be some 




THEY HAVEN'T HURT YOU. NORAH, HAVE THEY? ; 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 155 

head-lines in the Boston Herald over this ! I 
guess somebody will have to suffer for it." 

" Poor Mr. Stuart ! " cried Sadie, as the mono- 
tonous droning voice of the delirious man came 
again to their ears. " Come, auntie, and see if 
we cannot do something to relieve him." 

" I'm uneasy about Mrs. Shlesinger and the 
child," said Colonel Cochrane. " I can see your 
wife, Belmont, but I can see no one else." 

" They are bringing her over," cried he. "Thank 
God ! We shall hear all about it. They haven't 
hurt you, Norah, have they ? " He ran forward 
to grasp and kiss the hand which his wife held 
down to him as he helped her from the camel. 

The kind grey eyes and calm sweet face of 
the Irishwoman brought comfort and hope to the 
whole party. She was a devout Roman Catholic, 
and it is a creed which forms an excellent prop 
in hours of danger. To her, to the Anglican 
Colonel, to the Nonconformist minister, to the 
Presbyterian American, even to the two Pagan 
black riflemen, religion in its various forms was 
fulfilling the same beneficent office — whispering 
always that the worst which the world can do is 



156 THE TKAGEDY OF THE KOEOSKO 

a small thing, and that, however harsh the ways 
of Providence may seem, it is, on the whole, the 
wisest and best thing for us that we should go 
cheerfully whither the Great Hand guides us. 
They had not a dogma in common, these fellows 
in misfortune ; but they held the intimate, deep- 
lying spirit, the calm essential fatalism which is 
the world-old framework of religion, with fresh 
crops of dogmas growing like ephemeral lichens 
upon its granite surface. 

" You poor things ! " she said. " I can see that 
you have had a much worse time than I have. 
No, really, John, dear, I am quite well — not even 
very thirsty, for our party filled their water-skins 
at the Nile, and they let me have as much as 
I wanted. But I don't see Mr. Headingly and 
Mr. Brown. And poor Mr. Stuart — what a state 
he has been reduced to ! " 

" Headingly and Brown are out of their troubles," 
her husband answered. "You don't know how 
often I have thanked God to-day, Norah, that you 
were not with us. And here you are, after all." 

" Where should I be but by my husband's side? 
I had much.much rather be here than safe at Haifa." 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 157 

" Has any news gone to the town ? " asked the 
Colonel. 

" One boat escaped. Mrs. Shlesinger and her 
child and maid were in it. I was downstairs in 
my cabin when the Arabs rushed on to the vessel. 
Those on deck had time to escape, for the boat 
was alongside. I don't know whether any of them 
were hit. The Arabs fired at them for some time." 

" Did they ? " cried Belmont exultantly, his 
responsive Irish nature catching the sunshine in 
an instant. " Then, be Jove, we'll do them yet, 
for the garrison must have heard the firing. 
What d'ye think, Cochrane ? They must be 
full cry upon our scent this four hours. Any 
minute we might see the white puggaree of a 
British officer coming over that rise." 

But disappointment had left the Colonel cold 
and sceptical. 

" They need not come at all unless they come 
strong," said he. " These fellows are picked men 
with good leaders, and on their own ground they 
will take a lot of beating." Suddenly he paused 
and looked at the Arabs. " By George ! " said he, 
" that's a sight worth seeing ! " 



158 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

The great red sun was down with half its disc 
slipped behind the violet bank upon the horizon. 
It was the hour of Arab prayer. An older and 
more learned civilisation would have turned to 
that magnificent thing upon the skyline and 
adored that. But these wild children of the 
desert were nobler in essentials than the polished 
Persian. To them the ideal was higher than 
the material, and it was with their backs to 
the sun and their faces to the central shrine 
of their religion that they prayed. And ho\* 
they prayed, these fanatical Moslems ! Kapt 
absorbed, with yearning eyes and shining faces, 
rising, stooping, grovelling with their foreheads 
upon their praying carpets. Who could doubt, 
as he watched their strenuous, heart-whole de- 
votion, that here was a great living power in 
the world, reactionary but tremendous, countless 
millions all thinking as one from Cape Juby 
to the confines of China ? Let a common wave 
pass over them, let a great soldier or organiser 
arise among them to use the grand material at 
his hand, and who shall say that this may not 
be the besom with which Providence may sweep 




IT WAS THE HOUR OF ARAB PRAYER. 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 161 

the rotten, decadent, impossible, half-hearted south 
of Europe, as it did a thousand years ago, until 
it makes room for a sounder stock ? 

And now as they rose to their feet the bugle 
rang out, and the prisoners understood that, hav- 
ing travelled all day, they were fated to travel 
all night also. Belmont groaned, for he had 
reckoned upon the pursuers catching them up 
before they left this camp. But the others 
had already got into the way of accepting the 
inevitable. A flat Arab loaf had been given 
to each of them — what effort of the chef of 
the post-boat had ever tasted like that dry 
brown bread? — and then, luxury of luxuries, 
they had a second ration of a glass of water, 
for the fresh-filled bags of the new-comers had 
provided an ample supply. If the body would 
but follow the lead of the soul as readily as 
the soul does that of the body, what a heaven 
the earth might be ! Now, with their base 
material wants satisfied for the instant, their 
spirits began to sing within them, and they 
mounted their camels with some sense of the 
romance of their position. Mr. Stuart remained 



162 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

babbling upon the ground, and the Arabs made 
no effort to lift him into his saddle. His large, 
white, upturned face glimmered through the 
gathering darkness. 

" Hi, dragoman, tell them that they are for- 
getting Mr. Stuart," cried the Colonel. 

" No use, sir," said Mansoor. " They say that 
he is too fat, and that they will not take him 
any farther. He will die, they say, and why 
should they trouble about him ? " 

" Not take him ! " cried Cochrane. " Why, 
the man will perish of hunger and thirst. 
Where's the Emir ? Hi ! " he shouted, as the 
black-bearded Arab passed, with a tone like 
that in which he used to summon a dilatory 
donkey-boy. The chief did not deign to an- 
swer him, but said something to one of the 
guards, who dashed the butt of his Remington 
into the Colonel's ribs. The old soldier fell 
forward gasping, and was carried on half sense- 
less, clutching at the pommel of his saddle. 
The women began to cry, and the men, with 
muttered curses and clenched hands, writhed in 
that hell of impotent passion, where brutal in- 




THE OLD SOLDIER FELL FOIIY.ARD GASPING. 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 165 

justice and ill-usage have to go without check 
or even remonstrance. Belmont gripped at his 
hip-pocket for his little revolver, and then re- 
membered that he had already given it to Miss 
Adams. If his hot hand had clutched it, it 
would have meant the death of the Emir and 
the massacre of the party. 

And now as they rode onwards they saw 
one of the most singular of the phenomena of 
the Egyptian desert in front of them, though 
the ill-treatment of their companion had left 
them in no humour for the appreciation of its 
beauty. When the sun had sunk, the horizon 
had remained of a slaty-violet hue. But now 
this began to lighten and to brighten until a 
curious false dawn developed, and it seemed as if 
a vacillating sun was coming back along the path 
which it had just abandoned. A rosy pink hung 
over the west, w r ith beautifully delicate sea-green 
tints along the upper edge of it. Slowly these 
faded into slate again, and the night had come. 
It was but twenty-four hours since they had sat 
in their canvas chairs discussing politics by 
starlight on the saloon deck of the Korosko ; 



166 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

only twelve since they had breakfasted there 
and had started spruce and fresh upon their 
last pleasure trip. What a world of fresh im- 
pressions had come upon them since then ! 
How rudely they had been jostled out of their 
take -it -for -granted complacency ! The same 
shimmering silver stars, as they had looked 
upon last night, the same thin crescent of moon 
— but they, what a chasm lay between that old 
pampered life and this ! 

The long line of camels moved as noiselessly 
as ghosts across the desert. Before and behind 
were the silent, swaying white figures of the Arabs. 
Not a sound anywhere, not the very faintest sound, 
until far away behind them they heard a human 
voice singing in a strong, droning, unmusical 
fashion. It had the strangest effect, this far-away 
voice, in that huge inarticulate wilderness. And 
then there came a well-known rhythm into that 
distant chant, and they could almost hear the 
words — 

We nightly pitch our moving tent, 
A day's march nearer home. 

Was Mr. Stuart in his right mind, again, or was 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 167 

it some coincidence of his delirium, that he 
should have chosen this for his song ? With 
moist eyes his friends looked back through the 
darkness, for well they knew that home was very 
near to this wanderer. Gradually the voice died 
away into a hum, and was absorbed once more 
into the masterful silence of the desert. 

" My dear old chap, I hope you're not hurt ? " 
said Belmont, laying his hand upon Cochrane's 
knee. 

The Colonel had straightened himself, though 
he still gasped a little in his breathing. 

" I am all right again, now. Would you kindly 
show me which was the man who struck me ? " 

" It was the fellow in front there — with his 
camel beside Fardet's." 

"The young fellow with the moustache — I 
can't see him very well in this light, but I 
think I could pick him out again. Thank you, 
Belmont ! " 

" But I thought some of your ribs were gone." 

" No, it only knocked the wind out of me." 

" You must be made of iron. It was a frightful 
blow. How could you rally from it so quickly ? " 



168 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

The Colonel cleared his throat and hummed 
and stammered. 

" The fact is, my dear Belmont — I'm sure you 
would not let it go further — above all not to the 
ladies ; but I am rather older than I used to be, 
and rather than lose the military carriage which 
has always been dear to me, I " 

" Stays, be Jove ! " cried the astonished Irish- 
man. 

" Well, some slight artificial support," said the 
Colonel stiffly, and switched the conversation off 
to the chances of the morrow. 

It still comes back in their dreams to those 
who are left, that long night's march in the 
desert. It was like a dream itself, the silence of 
it as they were borne forward upon those soft, 
shuffling sponge feet, and the flitting, flickering 
figures which oscillated upon every side of them. 
The whole universe seemed to be hung as a mon- 
strous time-dial in front of them. A star would 
glimmer like a lantern on the very level of their 
path. They looked again, and it was a hand's- 
breadth up, and another was shining beneath it. 
Hour after hour the broad stream flowed sedately 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 169 

across the deep blue background, worlds and 
systems drifting majestically overhead, and pour- 
ing over the dark horizon. In their vastness and 
their beauty there was a vague consolation to the 
prisoners ; for their own fate, and their own in- 
dividuality, seemed trivial and unimportant amid 
the play of such tremendous forces. Slowly the 
grand procession swept across the heaven, first 
climbing, then hanging long with little apparent 
motion, and then sinking grandly downwards, 
until away in the east the first cold grey glimmer 
appeared, and their own haggard faces shocked 
each other's sight. 

The day had tortured them with its heat, and 
now the night had brought the even more in- 
tolerable disco; ifort of cold. The Arabs swathed 
themselves in their gowns and wrapped up their 
heads. The prisoners beat their hands together 
and shivered miserably. Miss Adams felt it most, 
for she was very thin, with the impaired circula- 
tion of age. Stephens slipped off his Norfolk 
jacket and threw it over her shoulders. He rode 
beside Sadie, and whistled and chatted to make 
her believe that her aunt was really relieving him 



170 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

by carrying his jacket for him, but the attempt 
was too boisterous not to be obvious; and yet 
it was so far true that he probably felt the cold 
less than any of the party, for the old, old fire 
was burning in his heart, and a curious joy was 
inextricably mixed with all his misfortunes, so 
that he would have found it hard to say if this 
adventure had been the greatest evil or the 
greatest blessing of his lifetime. Aboard the 
boat, Sadie's youth, her beauty, her intelligence 
and humour, all made him realise that she could 
at the best only be expected to charitably endure 
him. But now he felt that he was really of some 
use to her, that every hour she was learning to 
turn to him as one turns to one's natural pro- 
tector ; and above all, he had beg m to find him- 
self — to understand that there really was a strong, 
reliable man behind all the tricks of custom 
which had built up an artificial nature, which 
had imposed even upon himself. A little glow of 
self-respect began to warm his blood. He had 
missed his youth when he was young, and now 
in his middle age it was coming up like some 
beautiful belated flower. 



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"I AM QUITE CERTAIN THAT I WOULD NOT LEAVE YOU." 



THE TEAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 173 

" I do believe that you are all the time enjoy- 
ing it, Mr. Stephens," said Sadie with some 
bitterness. 

" I would not go so far as to say that," he 
answered. ' But I am quite certain that I would 
not leave you here." 

It was the nearest approach to tenderness 
which he had ever put into a speech, and the 
girl looked at him in surprise. 

" I think I've been a very wicked girl all my 
life," she said after a pause. " Because I have had 
a good time myself, I never thought of those who 
were unhappy. This has struck me serious. If 
ever I get back I shall be a better woman — a 
more earnest woman — in the future." 

" And I a better man. I suppose it is just for 
that that trouble comes to us. Look how it has 
brought out the virtues of all our friends. Take 
poor Mr. Stuart, for example. Should we ever 
have known what a noble, constant man he was ? 
And see Belmont and his wife, in front of us 
there, going fearlessly forward, hand in hand, 
thinking only of each other. And Cochrane, who 
always seemed on board the boat to be a rather 



174 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

stand-offish, narrow sort of man ! Look at his 
courage, and his unselfish indignation when any 
one is ill used. Fardet, too, is as brave as a lion. 
I think misfortune has done us all good." 

Sadie sighed. 

" Yes, if it would end right here one might say 
so ; but if it goes on and on for a few weeks 
or months of misery, and then ends in death, I 
don't know where we reap the benefit of those 
improvements of character which it brings. Sup- 
pose you escape, what will you do ? " 

The lawyer hesitated, but his professional in- 
stincts were still strong. 

" I will consider whether an action lies, and 
against whom. It should be with the organisers 
of the expedition for taking us to the Abousir 
Rock — or else with the Egyptian Government 
for not protecting their frontiers. It will be a 
nice legal question. And what will you do, 
Sadie ? " 

It was the first time that he had ever dropped 
the formal Miss, but the girl was too much in 
earnest to notice it. 

" I will be more tender to others," she said. 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 175 

" I will try to make some one else happy in 
memory of the miseries which I have endured." 

" You have done nothing all your life but 
made others happy. You cannot help doing it," 
said he. The darkness made it more easy for 
him to break through the reserve which was 
habitual with him. " You need this rough 
schooling far less than any of us. How could 
your character be changed for the better ? " 

" You show how little you know me. I have 
been very selfish and thoughtless." 

" At least you had no need for all these strong 
emotions. You were sufficiently alive Avithout 
them. Now it has been different with me." 

" Why did you need emotions, Mr. Stephens ? " 

" Because anything is better than stagnation. 
Pain is better than stagnation. I have only just 
begun to live. Hitherto I have been a machine 
upon the earth's surface. I was a one-ideaed 
man, and a one-ideaed man is only one remove 
from a dead man. That is what I have only 
just begun to realise. For all these years I 
have never been stirred, never felt a real throb 
of human emotion pass through me. I had 



176 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

no time for it. I had observed it in others, 
and I had vaguely wondered whether there was 
some want in me which prevented my sharing 
the experience of my fellow-mortals. But now 
these last few days have taught me how keenly 
I can live — that I can have warm hopes, and 
deadly fears — that I can hate, and that I can — 
well, that I can have every strong feeling which 
the soul can experience. I have come to life. 
I may be on the brink of the grave, but at least 
I can say now that I have lived." 

" And why did you lead this soul-killing life 
in England ? " 

" I was ambitious — I wanted to get on. And 
then there were my mother and my sisters to be 
thought of. Thank Heaven, here is the morn- 
ing coming. Your aunt and you will soon cease 
to feel the cold." 

" And you without your coat ! " 

" Oh, I have a very good circulation. I can 
manage very well in my shirt-sleeves." 

And now the long, cold, weary night was over, 
and the deep blue-black sky had lightened to a 
wonderful mauve-violet, with the larger stars still 




YOU MUST TRUST TO ME. 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 179 

glinting brightly out of it. Behind them the 
grey line had crept higher and higher, deepen- 
ing into a delicate rose-pink, with the fan-like 
rays of the invisible sun shooting and quivering 
across it. Then, suddenly, they felt its warm 
touch upon their backs, and there were hard 
black shadows upon the sand in front of them. 
The Dervishes loosened their cloaks and pro- 
ceeded to talk cheerily among themselves. The 
prisoners also began to thaw, and eagerly ate 
the doora which was served out for their break- 
fasts. A short halt had been called, and a cup 
of water handed to each. 

" Can I speak to you, Colonel Cochrane ? " 
asked the dragoman. . 

" No, you can't," snapped the Colonel. 

" But it is very important — all our safety may 
come from it." 

The Colonel frowned and pulled at his mous- 
tache. 

" Well, what is it ? " he asked at last. 

" You must trust to me, for it is as much to 
me as to you to get back to Egypt. My wife 
and home, and children, are on one part, and a 



180 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

slave for life upon the other. You have no cause 
to doubt it." 

" Well, go on ! " 

" You know the black man who spoke with 
you — the one who had been with Hicks ? " 

" Yes, what of him ? " 

" He has been speaking with me during the 
night. I have had a long talk with him. He 
said that he could not very well understand you, 
nor you him, and so he came to me." 

" What did he say ? " 

" He said that there were eight Egyptian 
soldiers among the Arabs — six black and two 
fellaheen. He said that he wished to have your 
promise that they should all have very good 
reward if they helped you to escape." 

" Of course they shall." 

" They asked for one hundred Egyptian pounds 
each." 

" They shall have it." 

" I told him that I would ask you, but that 
I was sure that you would agree to it." 

" What do they propose to do ? " 

" They could promise nothing, but what they 



THE TEAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 181 

thought best was that they should ride their 
camels not very far from you, so that if any 
chance should come they would be ready to take 
advantage." 

" Well, you can go to him and promise 
two hundred pounds each if they will help us. 
You do not think we could buy over some 
Arabs ? " 

Mansoor shook his head. " Too much danger 
to try," said he. " Suppose you try and fail, then 
that will be the end to all of us. I will go tell 
what you have said." He strolled off to where 
the old negro gunner was grooming his camel 
and waiting for his reply. 

The Emirs had intended to halt for a half- 
hour at the most, but the baggage-camels which 
bore the prisoners were so worn out with the 
long, rapid march, that it was clearly impossible 
that they should move for some time. They 
had laid their long necks upon the ground, which 
is the last symptom of fatigue. The two chiefs 
shook their heads when they inspected them, 
and the terrible old man looked with his hard- 
lined, rock features at the captives. Then he 



182 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

said something to Mansoor, whose face turned 
a shade more sallow as he listened. 

" The Emir Abderrahman says that if you do 
not become Moslem, it is not worth while delay- 
ing the whole caravan in order to carry you 
upon the baggage -camels. If it were not for 
you, he says that we could travel twice as fast. 
He wishes to know therefore, once for ever, if 
you will accept the Koran." Then in the same 
tone, as if he were still translating, he continued : 
" You had far better consent, for if you do not 
he will most certainly put you all to death." 

The unhappy prisoners looked at each other 
in despair. The two Emirs stood gravely watch- 
ing them. 

" For my part," said Cochrane, " I had as soon 
die now as be a slave in Khartoum." 

" What do you say, Norah ? " asked Belmont. 

" If we die together, John, I don't think I 
shall be afraid." 

" It is absurd that I should die for that in 
which I have never had belief," said Fardet. 
" And yet it is not possible for the honour of a 
Frenchman that he should be converted in this 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 183 

fashion." He drew himself up, with his wounded 
wrist stuck into the front of his jacket, " Je suis 
Chretien. J'y reste" he cried, a gallant falsehood 
in each sentence. 

" What do you say, Mr Stephens ? " asked 
Mansoor in a beseeching voice. " If one of you 
would change, it might place them in a good 
humour. I implore you that you do what they 
ask." 

" JSTo, I can't," said the lawyer quietly. 

" Well then, you, Miss Sadie ? You, Miss 
Adams ? It is only just to say it once, and you 
will be saved." 

" Oh, auntie, do you think we might ? " whim- 
pered the frightened girl. " Would it be so very 
wrong if we said it ? " 

The old lady threw her arms round her. 

" No, no, my own dear little Sadie," she whis- 
pered. " You'll be strong ! You would just hate 
yourself for ever after. Keep your grip of me, 
dear, and pray if you find your strength is leav- 
ing you. Don't forget that your old aunt Eliza 
has you all the time by the hand." 

For an instant they were heroic, this line of 



184 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

dishevelled, bedraggled pleasure-seekers. They 
were all looking Death in the face, and the closer 
they looked the less they feared him. They 
were conscious rather of a feeling of curiosity, 
together with the nervous tingling with which 
one approaches a dentist's chair. The dragoman 
made a motion of his hands and shoulders, as 
one who has tried and failed. The Emir Abder- 
rahman said something to a negro, who hurried 
away. 

" What does he want a scissors for ? " asked 
the Colonel. 

'• He is going to hurt the women," said Man- 
soor, with the same gesture of impotence. 

A cold chill fell upon them all. They stared 
about them in helpless horror. Death in the 
abstract was one thing, but these insufferable 
details were another. Each had been braced to 
endure any evil in his own person, but their hearts 
were still soft for each other. The women said 
nothing, but the men were all buzzing together. 

" There's the pistol, Miss Adams," said Belmont. 
" Give it here ! We won't be tortured ! We 
won't stand it ! " 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 185 

" Offer them money, Mansoor ! Offer them 
anything ! " cried Stephens. " Look here, I'll 
turn Mohammedan if they'll promise to leave 
the women alone. After all, it isn't binding — 
it's under compulsion. But I can't see the 
women hurt." 

" No, wait a bit, Stephens ! " said the Colonel. 
" We mustn't lose our heads. I think I see a 
way out. See here, dragoman ! You tell that 
grey-bearded old devil that we know nothing 
about his cursed tinpot religion. Put it smooth 
when you translate it. Tell him that he cannot 
expect us to adopt it until we know what par- 
ticular brand of rot it is that he wants us to 
believe. Tell him that if he will instruct us, 
we are perfectly willing to listen to his teaching, 
and you can add that any creed which turns out 
such beauties as him, and that other bounder 
with the black beard, must claim the attention 
of every one." 

With bows and suppliant sweepings of his 
hands the dragoman explained that the Chris- 
tians were already full of doubt, and that it 
needed but a little more light of knowledge to 



186 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

guide them on to the path of Allah. The two 
Emirs stroked their beards and gazed suspiciously 
at them. Then Abderrahman spoke in his crisp, 
stern fashion to the dragoman, and the two strode 
away together. An instant later the bugle rang 
out as a signal to mount. 

"What he says is this," Mansoor explained, as 
he rode in the middle of the prisoners. "We 
shall reach the wells by mid-day, and there will 
be a rest. His own Moolah, a very good and 
learned man, will come to give you an hour of 
teaching. At the end of that time you will 
choose one way or the other. When you have 
chosen, it will be decided whether you are to go 
to Khartoum or to be put to death. That is his 
last word." 

" They won't take ransom ? " 

" Wad Ibrahim would, but the Emir Abder- 
rahman is a terrible man. I advise you to give 
in to him." 

"What have you done yourself? You are a 
Christian, too." 

Mansoor blushed as deeply as his complexion 
would allow. 




THE TWO EMIRS GAZED SUSPICIOUSLY AT THEM. 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 189 

" I was yesterday morning. Perhaps I will be 
to-morrow morning. I serve the Lord as long 
as what He ask seem reasonable ; but this is 
very otherwise." 

He rode onwards amongst the guards with a 
freedom which showed that his change of faith 
had put him upon a very different footing to the 
other prisoners. 

So they were to have a reprieve of a few 
hours, though they rode in that dark shadow of 
death which was closing in upon them. What 
is there in life that we should cling to it so ? It 
is not the pleasures, for those whose hours are 
one long pain shrink away screaming when they 
see merciful Death holding his soothing arms 
out for them. It is not the associations, for we 
will change all of them before we walk of our own 
free-wills down that broad road which every son 
and daughter of man must tread. Is it the fear 
of losing the I, that dear, intimate I, which we 
think we know so well, although it is eternally 
doing things which surprise us ? Is it that 
which makes the deliberate suicide cling madly 
to the bridge-pier as the river sweeps him by ? 



190 THE TKAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

Or is it that Nature is so afraid that all her 
weary workmen may suddenly throw down their 
tools and strike, that she has invented this 
fashion of keeping them constant to their 
present work ? But there it is, and all these 
tired, harassed, humiliated folk rejoiced in the 
few more hours of suffering which were left to 
them. 



CHAPTER VII 

There was nothing to show them as they jour- 
neyed onwards that they were not on the very 
spot that they had passed at sunset upon the 
evening before. The region of fantastic black 
hills and 'orange sand which bordered the river 
had long been left behind, and everywhere now 
was the same brown, rolling, gravelly plain, the 
ground-swell with the shining rounded pebbles 
upon its surface, and the occasional little 
sprouts of sage-green camel-grass. Behind and 
before it extended, to where far away in 
front of them it sloped upwards towards a line 
of violet hills. The sun was not high enough 
yet to cause the tropical shimmer, and the 
wide landscape, brown with its violet edging, 
stood out with a hard clearness in that dry, pure 
air. The long caravan straggled along at the 
slow swing of the baggage-camels. Far out on 
the flanks rode the vedettes, halting at every 

191 



192 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

rise, and peering backwards with their hands 
shading their eyes. In the distance their spears 
and rifles seemed to stick out of them, straight 
and thin, like needles in knitting. 

" How far do you suppose we are from the 
Nile ? " asked Cochrane. He rode with his chin 
on his shoulder and his eyes straining wistfully 
to the eastern sky-line. 

" A good fifty miles," Belmont answered. 

" Not so much as that," said the Colonel. 
"We could not have been moving more than 
fifteen or sixteen hours, and a camel does not 
do more than two and a half miles an hour un- 
less it is trotting. That would only give about 
forty miles, but still it is, I fear, rather far for 
a rescue. I don't know that we are much the 
better for this postponement. What have we 
to hope for ? We may just as well take our 
gruel." 

" Never say die ! " cried the cheery Irishman. 
"There's plenty of time between this and mid- 
day. Hamilton and Hedley of the Camel Corps 
are good boys, and they'll be after us like a 
streak. They'll have no baggage camels to hold 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 193 

tliem back, you can lay your life on that ! Little 
did I think, when I dined with them at mess 
that last night, and they were telling me all 
their precautions against a raid, that I should 
depend upon them for our lives." 

" Well, we'll play the game out, but I'm not 
very hopeful," said Cochrane. " Of course, we 
must keep the best face we can before the women. 
I see that Tippy Tilly is as good as his word, for 
those five niggers and the two brown Johnnies 
must be the men he speaks of. They all ride 
together and keep well up, but I can't see how 
they are going to help us." 

" I've got my pistol back," whispered Belmont, 
and his square chin and strong mouth set like 
granite. " If they try any games on the women, 
I mean to shoot them all three with my own hand, 
and then we'll die with our minds easy." 

" Good man ! " said Cochrane, and they rode 
on in silence. None of them spoke much. A 
curious, dreamy, irresponsible feeling crept over 
them. It was as if they had all taken some 
narcotic drug — the merciful anodyne which 
Nature uses when a great crisis has fretted the 



194 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

nerves too far. They thought of their friends 
and of their past lives in the comprehensive way 
in which one views that which is completed. A 
subtle sweetness mingled with the sadness of 
their fate. They were filled with the quiet 
serenity of despair. 

" It's devilish pretty," said the Colonel, looking 
about him. " I always had an idea that I should 
like to die in a real, good, yellow London fog. 
You couldn't change for the worse." 

" I should have liked to have died in my sleep,' 
said Sadie. " How beautiful to wake up and find 
yourself in the other world ! There was a piece 
that Hetty Smith used to say at the College: 
' Say not good-night, but in some brighter world 
wish me good-morning.' " 

The Puritan aunt shook her head at the idea. 
" It's a terrible thing to go unprepared into the 
presence of your Maker," said she. 

" It's the loneliness of death that is terrible," 
said Mrs. Belmont. " If we and those whom we 
loved all passed over simultaneously, we should 
think no more of it than of changing our house." 

" If the worst comes to the worst, we won't be 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 195 

lonely," said her husband. " We'll all go to- 
gether, and we shall find Brown and Headingly 
and Stuart waiting on the other side." 

The Frenchman shrugged his shoulders. He 
had no belief in survival after death, but he 
envied the two Catholics the quiet way in which 
they took things for granted. He chuckled to 
think of what his friends in the Cafe Cubat 
would say if they learned that he had laid down 
his life for the Christian faith. Sometimes it 
amused and sometimes it maddened him, and he 
rode onwards with alternate gusts of laughter and 
of fury, nursing his wounded wrist all the time 
like a mother with a sick baby. 

Across the brown of the hard, pebbly desert 
there had been visible for some time a single 
long, thin, yellow streak, extending north and 
south as far as they could see. It was a band 
of sand not more than a few hundred yards 
across, and rising at the highest to eight or ten 
feet. But the prisoners were astonished to 
observe that the Arabs pointed at this with an 
air of the utmost concern, and they halted when 
they came to the edge of it like men upon the 



196 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

brink of an unfordable river. It was very light, 
dusty sand, and every wandering breath of wind 
sent it dancing into the air like a whirl of midges. 
The Emir Abderrahman tried to force his camel 
into it, but the creature, after a step or two, stood 
still and shivered with terror. The two chiefs 
talked for a little, and then the whole caravan 
trailed off with their heads for the north, and the 
streak of sand upon their left. 

" What is it ? " asked Belmont, who found the 
dragoman riding at his elbow. " Why are we 
going out of our course ? " 

" Drift sand," Mansoor answered. " Every some- 
times the wind bring it all in one long place like 
that. To-morrow, if a wind comes, perhaps there 
will not be one grain left, but all will be carried 
up into the air again. An Arab will sometimes 
have to go fifty or a hundred miles to go round 
a drift. Suppose he tries to cross, his camel 
breaks its legs, and he himself is sucked in and 
swallowed." 

" How long will this be ? " 

" No one can say." 

" Well, Cochrane, it's all in our favour. The 




THE CREATURE, AFTER A STEP OR TWO, STOOD STILL. 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 199 

longer the chase the better chance for the fresh 
camels ! " and for the hundredth time he looked 
back at the long, hard skyline behind them. 
There was the great, empty, dun-coloured desert, 
but where the glint of steel or the twinkle of 
white helmet for which he yearned ? 

And soon they cleared the obstacle in their 
front. It spindled away into nothing, as a 
streak of dust would which has been blown 
across an empty room. It was curious to see 
that when it was so narrow that one could 
almost jump it, the Arabs would still go for 
many hundreds of yards rather than risk the 
crossing. Then, with good, hard country before 
them once more, the tired beasts were whipped 
up, and they ambled on with a double-jointed 
jogtrot, which set the prisoners nodding and bow- 
ing in grotesque and ludicrous misery. It was 
fun at first, and they smiled at each other, but 
soon the fun had become tragedy as the terrible 
camel- ache seized them by spine and waist, with 
its deep, dull throb, which rises gradually to a 
splitting agony. 

" I can't stand it, Sadie," cried Miss Adams 



200 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

suddenly. "I've done my best. I'm going to 
fall." 

"No, no, auntie, you'll break your limbs if 
you do. Hold up, just a little, and maybe 
they'll stop." 

"Lean back, and hold your saddle behind," 
said the Colonel. "There, you'll find that will 
ease the strain." He took the puggaree from 
his hat, and tying the ends together, he slung it 
over her front pommel. " Put your foot in the 
loop," said he. "It will steady you like a 
stirrup." 

The relief was instant, so Stephens did the 
same for Sadie. But presently one of the weary 
doora camels came down with a crash, its limbs 
starred out as if it had split asunder, and the 
caravan had to come down to its old sober .gait. 

" Is this another belt of drift sand ? " asked the 
Colonel presently. 

" No, it's white," said Belmont. " Here, Man- 
soor, what is that in front of us ? " 

But the dragoman shook his head. 

" I don't know what it is, sir. I never saw 
the same thing before." 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 203 

Right across the desert, from north to south, 
there was drawn a white line, as straight and 
clear as if it had been slashed with chalk across 
a brown table. It was very thin, but it extended 
without a break from horizon to horizon. Tippy 
Tilly said something to the dragoman. 

" It's the great caravan route," said Mansoor. 

" What makes it white, then ? " 

" The bones." 

It seemed incredible, and yet it was true, for 
as they drew nearer they saw that it was indeed 
a beaten track across the desert, hollowed out 
by long usage, and so covered with bones that 
they gave the impression of a continuous white 
ribbon. Long, snouty heads were scattered 
everywhere, and the lines of ribs were so con- 
tinuous that it looked in places like the frame- 
work of a monstrous serpent. The endless road 
gleamed in the sun as if it were paved with 
ivory. For thousands of years this had been 
the highway over the desert, and during all 
that time no animal of all those countless 
caravans had died there without being pre- 
served by the dry, antiseptic air. No wonder, 



204 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

then, that it washardly possible to walk down it 
now without treading upon their skeletons. 

" This must be the route I spoke of," said 
Stephens. " I remember marking it upon the 
map I made for you, Miss Adams. Baedeker 
says that it has been disused on account of the 
cessation of all trade which followed the rise of 
the Dervishes, but that it used to be the main 
road by which the skins and gums of Darfur 
found their way down to Lower Egypt." 

They looked at it with a listless curiosity, for 
there was enough to engross them at present in 
their own fates. The caravan struck to the south 
along the old desert track, and this Golgotha of 
a road seemed to be a fitting avenue for that 
which awaited them at the end of it. Weary 
camels and weary riders dragged on together 
towards their miserable goal. 

And now, as the critical moment approached 
which was to decide their fate, Colonel Coch- 
rane, weighed down by his fears lest something 
terrible should befall the women, put his pride 
aside to the extent of asking the advice of the 
renegade dragoman. The fellow was a villain 




HOW CAN WE STAVE THEM OFF FOR ANOTHER DAY? ; 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 207 

and a coward, but at least he was an Oriental, 
and he understood the Arab point of view. His 
change of religion had brought him into closer 
contact with the Dervishes, and he had over- 
heard their intimate talk. Cochrane's stiff, 
aristocratic nature fought hard before he could 
bring himself to ask advice from such a man, 
and when he at last did so, it was in the gruffest 
and most unconciliatory voice. 

"You know the rascals, and you have the 
same way of looking at things," said he. " Our 
object is to keep things going for another twenty- 
four hours. After that it does not much matter 
what befalls us, for we shall be out of the reach 
of rescue. But how can we stave them off for 
another day ? " 

"You know my advice," the dragoman an- 
swered ; " I have already answered it to you. If 
you will all become as I have, you will certainly 
be carried to Khartoum in safety. If you do not, 
you will never leave our next camping-place 
alive." 

The Colonel's well- curved nose took a higher 
tilt, and an angry flush reddened his thin cheeks. 



208 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

He rode in silence for a little, for his Indian 
service had left him with a curried-prawn temper, 
which had had an extra touch of cayenne added 
to it by his recent experiences. It was some 
minutes before he could trust himself to reply. 

" We'll set that aside," said he at last. " Some 
things are possible and some are not. This is 
not." 

" You need only pretend." 

" That's enough," said the Colonel abruptly. 

Mansoor shrugged his shoulders. 

" What is the use of asking me, if you become 
angry when I answer ? If you do not wish to do 
what I say, then try your own attempt. At least 
you cannot say that I have not done all I could 
to save you." 

" I'm not angry," the Colonel answered after a 
pause, in a more conciliatory voice, "but this is 
climbing down rather farther than we care to go. 
Now, what I thought is this. You might, if you 
chose, give this priest, or Moolah, who is coming 
to us, a hint that we really are softening a bit upon 
the point. I don't think, considering the hole 
that we are in, that there can be very much 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 209 

objection to that. Then, when he comes, we 
might play up and take an interest and ask for 
more instruction, and in that way hold the matter 
over for a day or two. Don't you think that 
would be the best game ? " 

" You will do as you like," said Mansoor. " I 
have told you once for ever what I think. If 
you wish that I speak to the Moolah, I will do so. 
It is the fat, little man with the grey beard, upon 
the brown camel in front there. I may tell you 
that he has a name among them for converting 
the infidel, and he has a great pride in it, so 
that he would certainly prefer that you were not 
injured if he thought that he might bring you 
into Islam." 

" Tell him that our minds are open, then," said 
the Colonel. " I don't suppose the padre would 
have gone so far, but now that he is dead I think 
we may stretch a point. You go to him, Man- 
soor, and if you work it well we will agree to 
forget what is past. By the way, has Tippy 
Tilly said anything ? " 

" No, sir. He has kept his men together, but 
he does not understand yet how he can help you." 



210 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

" Neither do I. Well, you go to the Moolah, 
and I'll tell the others what we have agreed." 

The prisoners all acquiesced in the Colonel's 
plan, with the exception of the old New England 
lady, who absolutely refused even to show any 
interest in the Mohammedan creed. " I guess I 
am too old to bow the knee to Baal," she said. 
The most that she would concede was that she 
would not openly interfere with anything which 
her companions might say or do. 

" And who is to argue with the priest ? " asked 
Fardet, as they all rode together, talking the 
matter over. " It is very important that it should 
be done in a natural way, for if he thought that 
we were only trying to gain time, he would refuse 
to have any more to say to us." 

" I think Cochrane should do it, as the proposal 
is his," said Belmont. 

" Pardon me ! " cried the Frenchman. ' I will 
not say a word against our friend the Colonel, but 
it is not possible that a man should be fitted for 
everything. It will all come to nothing if he 
attempts it. The priest will see through the 
Colonel." 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 211 

" Will he ? " said the Colonel with dignity. 

" Yes, my friend, he will, for, like most of your 
countrymen, you are very wanting in sympathy 
for the ideas of other people, and it is the great 
fault which I find with you as a nation." 

" Oh, drop the politics ! " cried Belmont im- 
patiently. 

" I do not talk politics. What I say is very 
practical. How can Colonel Cochrane pretend to 
this priest that he is really interested in his 
religion when, in effect, there is no religion in 
the world to him outside some little church in 
which he has been born and bred ? I will say 
this for the Colonel, that I do not believe he is 
at all a hypocrite, and I am sure that he could 
not act well enough to deceive such a man as 
this priest." 

The Colonel sat with a very stiff back and the 
blank face of a man who is not quite sure whether 
he is being complimented or insulted. 

" You can do the talking yourself if you like," 
said he at last. " I should be very glad to be 
relieved of it." 

" I think that I am best fitted for it, since I 



212 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

am equally interested in all creeds. When I ask 
for information, it is because in verity I desire it, 
and not because I am playing a part." 

" I certainly think that it would be much better 
if Monsieur Fardet would undertake it," said Mrs. 
Belmont with decision, and so the matter was 
arranged. 

The sun was now high, and it shone with 
dazzling brightness upon the bleached bones 
which lay upon the road. Again the torture of 
thirst fell upon the little group of survivors, and 
again, as they rode with withered tongues and 
crusted lips, a vision of the saloon of the Korosko 
danced like a mirage before their eyes, and they 
saw the white napery, the wine-cards by the 
places, the long necks of the bottles, the siphons 
upon the sideboard. Sadie, who had borne up so 
well, became suddenly hysterical, and her shrieks 
of senseless laughter jarred horribly upon their 
nerves. Her aunt on one side of her, and Mr. 
Stephens on the other, did all they could to 
soothe her, and at last the weary, over-strung 
girl relapsed into something between a sleep and 
a faint, hanging limp over her pommel, and only 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 213 

kept from falling by the friends who clustered 
round her. The baggage- camels were as weary 
as their riders, and again and again they had to 
jerk at their nose-ropes to prevent them from 
lying down. From horizon to horizon stretched 
that one huge arch of speckless blue, and up its 
monstrous concavity crept the inexorable sun, 
like some splendid but barbarous deity, who 
claimed a tribute of human suffering as his 
immemorial right. 

Their course still lay along the old trade route, 
but their progress was very slow, and more than 
once the two Emirs rode back together, and shook 
their heads as they looked at the weary baggage - 
camels on which the prisoners were perched. 
The greatest laggard of all was one which was 
ridden by a ivounded Soudanese soldier. It was 
limping badly with a strained tendon, and it 
was only by constant prodding that it could be 
kept with the others. The Emir Wad Ibraham 
raised his Remington, as the creature hobbled 
past, and sent , a bullet through its brain. The 
wounded man flew forwards out of the high 
saddle, and fell heavily upon the hard track. 



214 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

His companions in misfortune, looking back, saw 
him stagger to his feet with a dazed face. At the 
same instant a Baggara slipped down from his 
camel with a sword in his hand. 

" Don't look ! don't look ! " cried Belmont to 
the ladies, and they all rode on with their faces 
to the south. They heard no sound, but the 
Baggara passed them a few minutes afterwards. 
He was cleaning his sword upon the hairy neck 
of his camel, and he glanced at them with a 
quick, malicious gleam of his teeth as he trotted 
by. But those who are at the lowest pitch of 
human misery are at least secured against the 
future. That vicious, threatening smile which 
might once have thrilled them left them now 
unmoved — or stirred them at most to vague 
resentment. 

There were many things to interest them in 
this old trade route, had they been in a condition 
to take notice of them. Here and there along 
its course were the crumbling remains of ancient 
buildings, so old that no date could be assigned 
to them, but designed in some far-off civilisation 
to give the travellers shade from the sun or 




A BAGGARA SLIPPED DOWN WITH A SWORD IN HIS HAND. 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 217 

protection from the ever-lawless children of the 
desert. The mud bricks with which these refuges 
were constructed showed that the material had 
been carried over from the distant Nile. Once, 
upon the top of a little knoll, they saw the 
shattered plinth of a pillar of red Assouan granite, 
with the wide- winged symbol of the Egyptian god 
across it, and the cartouche of the second Rameses 
beneath. After three thousand years one cannot 
get away from the ineffaceable footprints of the 
warrior-king. It is surely the most wonderful 
survival of history that one should still be able 
to gaze upon him, high nosed and masterful, as 
he lies with his powerful arms crossed upon his 
chest, majestic even in decay, in the Gizeh 
Museum. To the captives, the cartouche was a 
message of hope, as a sign that they were not 
outside the sphere of Egypt. " They've left their 
card here once, and they may again," said Bel- 
mont, and they all tried to smile. 

And now they came upon one of the most 
satisfying sights on which the human eye can 
ever rest. Here and there, in the depressions at 
either side of the road, there had been a thin 



218 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

scurf of green, which meant that water was not 
very far from the surface. And then, quite 
suddenly, the track dipped down into a bowl- 
shaped hollow, with a most dainty group of palm- 
trees, and a lovely green sward at the bottom of 
it. The sun gleaming upon that brilliant patch 
of clear, restful colour, with the dark glow of the 
bare desert around it, made it shine like the 
purest emerald in a setting of burnished copper. 
And then it was not its beauty only, but its 
promise for the future : water, shade, all that 
weary travellers could ask for. Even Sadie was 
revived by the cheery sight, and the spent camels 
snorted and stepped out more briskly, stretching 
their long necks and sniffing the air as they went. 
After the unhomely harshness of the desert, it 
seemed to all of them that they had never seen 
anything more beautiful than this. They looked 
below at the green sward with the dark, star-like 
shadows of the palm -crowns, and then they 
looked up at those deep green leaves against the 
rich blue of the sky, and they forgot their im- 
pending death in the beauty of that Nature to 
whose bosom they were about to return. 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 219 

The wells in the centre of the grove consisted 
of seven large and two small saucer-like cavities 
filled with peat-coloured water, enough to form a 
plentiful supply for any caravan. Camels and 
men drank it greedily, though it was tainted by 
the all-pervading natron. The camels were 
picketed, the Arabs threw their sleeping-mats 
down in the shade, and the prisoners, after receiv- 
ing a ration of dates and of doora, were told that 
they might do what they would during the heat 
of the day, and that the Moolah would come to 
them before sunset. The ladies were given the 
thicker shade of an acacia tree, and the men lay 
down under the palms. The great green leaves 
swished slowly above them ; they heard the low 
hum of the Arab talk, and the dull champing of 
the camels, and then in an instant, by that most 
mysterious and least understood of miracles, one 
was in a green Irish valley, and another saw the 
long straight line of Commonwealth Avenue, and 
a third was dining at a little round table opposite 
to the bust of Nelson in the Army and Navy 
Club, and for him the swishing of the palm 
branches had been transformed into the long- 



220 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

drawn hum of Pall Mall. So the spirits went 
their several ways, wandering back along strange, 
untraced tracks of the memory, while the weary, 
grimy bodies lay senseless under the palm-trees 
in the Oasis of the Libyan Desert. 




SENSELESS UNDER THE PALM-TREES. 



CHAPTER VIII 

Colonel Cochrane was awakened from his 
slumber by some one pulling at his shoulder. 
As his eyes opened they fell upon the black, 
anxious face of Tippy Tilly, the old Egyptian 
gunner. His crooked finger was laid upon his 
thick, liver-coloured lips, and his dark eyes glanced 
from left to right with ceaseless vigilance. 

" Lie quiet ! Do not move ! " he whispered, in 
Arabic. " I will lie here beside you, and they 
cannot tell me from the others. You can under- 
stand what I am saying ? " 

" Yes, if you will talk slowly. 

" Very good. I have no great trust in this 
black man, Mansoor. I had rather talk direct 
with the Miralai." 

" What have you to say ? " 

<: I have waited long, until they should all be 
asleep, and now in another hour we shall be called 
to evening prayer. First of all, here is a pistol, 

223 



224 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

that you may not say that you are without 
arms." 

It was a clumsy, old-fashioned thing, but the 
Colonel saw the glint of a percussion cap upon 
the nipple, and knew that it was loaded. He 
slipped it into the inner pocket of his Norfolk 
jacket. 

" Thank you," said he ; " speak slowly, so that I 
may understand you." 

"There are eight of us who wish to go to 
Egypt. There are also four men in your party. 
One of us, Mehemet Ali, has fastened twelve 
camels together, which are the fastest of all save 
only those which are ridden by the Emirs. There 
are guards upon watch, but they are scattered in 
all directions. The twelve camels are close beside 
us here — those twelve behind the acacia tree. If 
we can only get mounted and started, I do not 
think that many can overtake us, and we shall 
have our rifles for them. The guards are not 
strong enough to stop so many of us. The water- 
skins are all filled, and we may see the Nile again 
by to-morrow night." 

The Colonel could not follow it all, but he 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 225 

understood enough to set a little spring of hope 
bubbling in his heart. The last terrible day had 
left its mark in his livid face and his hair, which 
was turning rapidly to grey. He might have 
been the father of the spruce well - preserved 
soldier who had paced with straight back and 
military stride up and down the saloon deck of 
the Korosko. 

" That is excellent," said he. " But what are 
we to do about the three ladies ? " 

The black soldier shrugged his shoulders. 

" Mefeesh ! " said he. " One of them is old, and 
in any case there are plenty more women if we 
get back to Egypt. These will not come to any 
hurt, but they will be placed in the harem of the 
Khalifa." 

" What you say is nonsense," said the Colonel 
sternly. " We shall take our women with us, or 
we shall not go at all." 

" I think it is rather you who talk the thing 

without sense," the black man answered angrily. 

" How can you ask my companions and me to do 

that which must end in failure ? For years we 

have waited for such a chance as this, and now 

p 



226 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

that it has come, you wish us to throw it away 
owing to this foolishness about the women." 

" What have we promised you if we come back 
to Egypt ? " asked Cochrane. 

" Two hundred Egyptian pounds and promotion 
in the army — all upon the word of an Englishman." 

"Very good. Then you shall have three 
hundred each if you can make some new plan 
by which you can take the women with you." 

Tippy Tilly scratched his woolly head in his 
perplexity. 

"We might, indeed, upon some excuse, bring 
three more of the faster camels round to this place. 
Indeed, there are three very good camels among 
those which are near the cooking fire. But how 
are we to get the women upon them ? — and if 
we had them upon them, we know very well 
that they would fall off when they began to 
gallop. I fear that you men will fall off, for it 
is no easy matter to remain upon a galloping 
camel ; but as to the women, it is impossible. 
No, we shall leave the women, and if you will 
not leave the women, then we shall leave all of 
you and start by ourselves." 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 229 

" Very good ! Go ! " said the Colonel abruptly, 
and settled down as if to sleep once more. He 
knew that with Orientals it is the silent man who 
is most likely to have his way. 

The negro turned and crept away for some 
little distance, where he was met by one of his 
fellaheen comrades, Mehemet Ali, who had charge 
of the camels. The two argued for some little 
time — for those three hundred golden pieces were 
not to be lightly resigned. Then the negro crept 
back to Colonel Cochrane. 

" Mehemet Ali has agreed," said he. " He has 
gone to put the nose-rope upon three more of the 
camels. But it is foolishness, and we are all going 
to our death. Now come with me, and we shall 
awaken the women and tell them." 

The Colonel shook his companions and whis- 
pered to them what was in the wind. Belmont 
and Fardet were ready for any risk. Stephens, to 
whom the prospect of a passive death presented 
little terror, was seized with a convulsion of fear 
when he thought of any active exertion to avoid 
it, and shivered in all his long, thin limbs. Then 
he pulled out his Baedeker and began to write 



230 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

his will upon the flyleaf, but his hand twitched 
so that he was hardly legible. By some strange 
gymnastic of the legal mind a death, even by 
violence, if accepted quietly, had a place in the 
established order of things, while a death which 
overtook one galloping frantically over a desert 
was wholly irregular and discomposing. It was 
not dissolution which he feared, but the humilia- 
tion and agony of a fruitless struggle against it. 

Colonel Cochrane and Tippy Tilly had crept 
together under the shadow of the great acacia 
tree to the spot where the women were lying. 
Sadie and her aunt lay with their arms round 
each other, the girl's head pillowed upon the old 
woman's bosom. Mrs. Belmont was awake, and 
entered into the scheme in an instant. 

"But you must leave me," said Miss Adams 
earnestly. " What does it matter at my age, 
anyhow ? " 

" No, no, Aunt Eliza ; I won't move without 
you ! Don't you think it ! " cried the girl. 
" You've got to come straight away, or else we 
both stay right here where we are." 

" Come, come, ma'am, there is no time for 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 231 

arguing, or nonsense," said the Colonel roughly. 
" Our lives all depend upon your making an effort, 
and we cannot possibly leave you behind." 

« But I will fall off." 
I'll tie you on with my puggaree. I wish I 
had the cummerbund which I lent poor Stuart. 
Now, Tippy, I think we might make a break 
for it ! " 

But the black soldier had been staring with a 
disconsolate face out over the desert, and he turned 
upon his heel with an oath. 

" There ! " said he sullenly. " You see what 
comes of all your foolish talking ! You have 
ruined our chances as well as your own ! " 

Half-a-dozen mounted camel-men had appeared 
suddenly over the lip of the bowl-shaped hollow, 
standing out hard and clear against the evening 
sky where the copper basin met its great blue lid. 
They were travelling fast, and waved their rifles 
as they came. An instant later the bugle sounded 
an alarm, and the camp was up with a buzz like 
an overturned bee-hive. The Colonel ran back 
to his companions, and the black soldier to his 
camel. Stephens looked relieved, and Belmont 



232 THE TEAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

sulky, while Monsieur Fardet raved, with his one 
uninjured hand in the air. 

" Sacred name of a dog ! " he cried. " Is there 
no end to it, then ? Are we never to come out of 
the hands of these accursed Dervishes ? " 

" Oh, they really are Dervishes, are they ? " said 
the Colonel in an acid voice. " You seem to be 
altering your opinions. I thought they were an 
invention of the British Government." 

The poor fellows' tempers were getting frayed 
and thin. The Colonel's sneer was like a match 
to a magazine, and in an instant the Frenchman 
was dancing in front of him with a broken torrent 
of angry words. His hand was clutching at 
Cochrane's throat before Belmont and Stephens 
could pull him off. 

" If it were not for your grey hairs " he said 

" Damn your impudence ! " cried the Colonel. 

" If we have to die, let us die like gentlemen, 
and not like so many corner-boys," said Belmont 
with dignity. 

" I only said I was glad to see that Monsieur 
Fardet has learned something from his adven- 
tures," the Colonel sneered. 




HIS HAND WAS CLUTCHING AT COCHRANE's THROAT. 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 235 

" Shut up, Cochrane ! What do you want to 
aggravate him for ? " cried the Irishman. 

" Upon my word, Belmont, you forget yourself ! 
I do not permit people to address me in this 
fashion." 

"You should look after your own manners, 
then." 

" Gentlemen, gentlemen, here are the ladies ! " 
cried Stephens, and the angry, overstrained men 
relapsed into a gloomy silence, pacing up and 
down, and jerking viciously at their moustaches. 
It is a very catching thing, ill-temper, for even 
Stephens began to be angry at their anger, and 
to scowl at them as they passed him. Here they 
were at a crisis in their fate, with the shadow 
of death above them, and yet their minds were all 
absorbed in some personal grievance so slight that 
they could hardly put it into words. Misfortune 
brings the human spirit to a rare height, but the 
pendulum still swings. 

But soon their attention was drawn away to 
more important matters. A council of war was 
being held beside the wells, and the two Emirs, 
stern and composed, were listening to a voluble 



236 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

report from the leader of the patrol. The 
prisoners noticed that, though the fierce, old 
man stood like a graven image, the younger 
Emir passed his hand over his beard once or 
twice with a nervous gesture, the thin, brown 
fingers twitching among the long, black hair. 

" I believe the Gippies are after us," said 
Belmont. u Not very far off either, to judge by 
the fuss they are making." 

" It looks like it. Something has scared 
them." 

" Now he's giving orders. What can it be ? 
Here, Mansoor, what is the matter ? " 

The dragoman came running up with the light 
of hope shining upon his brown face. 

" I think they have seen something to frighten 
them. I believe that the soldiers are behind us. 
They have given the order to fill the water-skins, 
and be ready for a start when the darkness 
comes. But I am ordered to gather you to- 
gether, for the Moolah is coming to convert you 
all. I have already told him that you are all very 
much inclined to think the same with him." 

How far Mansoor may have gone with his 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 237 

assurances may never be known, but the Mus- 
sulman preacher came walking towards them at 
this moment with a paternal and contented smile 
upon his face, as one who has a pleasant and 
easy task before him. He was a one-eyed man, 
with a fringe of grizzled beard and a face which 
was fat, but which looked as if it had once been 
fatter, for it was marked with many folds and 
creases. He had a green turban upon his head, 
which marked him as a Mecca pilgrim. In one 
hand he carried a small brown carpet, and in 
the other a parchment copy of the Koran. 
Laying his carpet upon the ground, he motioned 
Mansoor to his side, and then gave a circular 
sweep of his arm to signify that the prisoners 
should gather round him, and a downward wave 
which meant that they should be seated. So 
they grouped themselves round him, sitting on 
the short green sward under the palm-tree, these 
seven forlorn representatives of an alien creed, 
and in the midst of them sat the fat little 
preacher, his one eye dancing from face to face 
as he expounded the principles of his newer, 
cruder, and more earnest faith. They listened 



238 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

attentively and nodded their heads as Mansoor 
translated the exhortation, and with each sign 
of their acquiescence the Moolah became more 
amiable in his manner and more affectionate in 
his speech. 

"For why should you die, my sweet lambs, 
when all that is asked of you is that you should 
set aside that which will carry you to everlasting 
Gehenna, and accept the law of Allah as written 
by his prophet, which will assuredly bring you 
unimaginable joys, as is promised in the Book 
of the Camel ? For what says the chosen one ? " 
— and he broke away into one of those dogmatic 
texts which pass in every creed as an argument. 
" Besides, is it not clear that God is with us, since 
from the beginning, when we had but sticks 
against the rifles of the Turks, victory has always 
been with us ? Have we not taken El Obeid, and 
taken Khartoum, and destroyed Hicks and slain 
Gordon, and prevailed against every one who has 
come against us ? How, then, can it be said that 
the blessing of Allah does not rest upon us?" 

The Colonel had been looking about him 
during the long exhortation of the Moolah, and 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 239 

he had observed that the Dervishes were cleaning 
their guns, counting their cartridges, and making 
all the preparations of men who expected that 
they might soon be called upon to fight. The 
two Emirs were conferring together with grave 
faces, and the leader of the patrol pointed, as he 
spoke to them, in the direction of Egypt. It was 
evident that there was at least a chance of a 
rescue if they could only keep things going for a 
few more hours. The camels were not recovered 
yet from their long march, and the pursuers, if 
they were indeed close behind, were almost certain 
to overtake them. 

" For God's sake, Fardet, try and keep him in 
play," said he. " I believe we have a chance if we 
can only keep the ball rolling for another hour 
or so." 

But a Frenchman's wounded dignity is not so 
easily appeased. Monsieur Fardet sat moodily 
with his back against the palm-tree, and his black 
brows drawn down. He said nothing, but he still 
pulled at his thick, strong moustache. 

" Come on, Fardet ! We depend upon you," 
said Belmont. 



240 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

" Let Colonel Cochrane do it," the Frenchman 
answered snappishly. " He takes too much upon 
himself, this Colonel Cochrane." 

" There ! There ! " said Belmont soothingly, as 
if he were speaking to a fractious child. " I 
am quite sure that the Colonel will express his 
regret at what has happened, and will acknow- 
ledge that he was in the wrong " 

" I'll do nothing of the sort," snapped the 
Colonel. 

" Besides, that is merely a personal quarrel," 
Belmont continued hastily. " It is for the 
good of the whole party that we wish you to 
speak with the Moolah, because we all feel that 
you are the best man for the job." 

But the Frenchman only shrugged his shoulders 
and relapsed into a deeper gloom. 

The Moolah looked from one to the other, 
and the kindly expression began to fade away 
from his large, baggy face. His mouth drew 
down at the corners, and became hard and 
severe. 

" Have these infidels been playing with us, 
then ? " said he to the dragoman. " Why is 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOEOSKO 241 

it that they talk among themselves and have 
nothing to say to me ? " 

"He's getting impatient about it," said Coch- 
rane. "Perhaps I had better do what I can, 
Belmont, since this damned fellow has left us 
in the lurch." 

But the ready wit of a woman saved the 
situation. 

" I am sure, Monsieur Fardet," said Mrs. 
Belmont, " that you, who are a Frenchman, and 
therefore a man of gallantry and honour, would 
not permit your own wounded feelings to inter- 
fere with the fulfilment of your promise and your 
duty towards three helpless ladies." 

Fardet was on his feet in an instant, with 
his hand over his heart. 

"You understand my nature, madame," he 
cried. " I am incapable of abandoning a lady. 
I will do all that I can in this matter. Now, 
Mansoor, you may tell the holy man that I 
am ready to discuss through you the high 
matters of his faith with him." 

And he did it with an ingenuity which 
amazed his companions. He took the tone 



242 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

of a man who is strongly attracted, and yet 
has one single remaining shred of doubt to 
hold him back. Yet as that one shred was 
torn away by the Moolah, there was always 
some other stubborn little point which pre- 
vented his absolute acceptance of the faith of 
Islam. And his questions were all so mixed 
up with personal compliments to the priest and 
self-congratulations that they should have come 
under the teachings of so wise a man and so 
profound a theologian, that the hanging pouches 
under the Moolah's eyes quivered with his satis- 
faction, and he was led happily and hopefully 
onwards from explanation to explanation, while 
the blue overhead turned into violet, and the 
green leaves into black, until the great serene 
stars shone out once more between the crowns 
of the palm-trees. 

" As to the learning of which you speak, my 
lamb," said the Moolah, in answer to some 
argument of Fardet's, " I have myself studied 
at the University of El Azhar at Cairo, and I 
know that to which you allude. But the learn- 
ing of the faithful is not as the learning of 



THE TKAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 243 

the unbeliever, and it is not fitting that we 
pry too deeply into the ways of Allah. Some 
stars have tails, oh my sweet lamb, and some 
have not ; but what does it profit us to know 
which are which ? For God made them all, 
and they are very safe in His hands. There- 
fore, my friend, be not puffed up by the foolish 
learning of the West, and understand that there 
is only one wisdom, which consists in following 
the will of Allah as His chosen prophet has 
laid it down for us in this book. And now, 
my lambs, I see that you are ready to come 
into Islam, and it is time, for that bugle tells 
that we are about to march, and it was the 
order of the excellent Emir Abderrahman that 
your choice should be taken, one way or the 
other, before ever we left the wells." 

" Yet, my father, there are other points upon 
which I would gladly have instruction," said the 
Frenchman, " for, indeed, it is a pleasure to hear 
your clear words after the cloudy accounts which 
we have had from other teachers." 

But the Moolah had risen, and a gleam of 
suspicion twinkled in his single eye. 



244 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

" This further instruction may well come after- 
wards," said he, " since Ave shall travel together as 
far as Khartoum, and it will be a joy to me to 
see you grow in wisdom and in virtue as we go." 
He walked over to the fire, and stooping down, 
with the pompous slowness of a stout man, he 
returned with two half-charred sticks, which he 
laid cross- wise upon the ground. The Dervishes 
came clustering over to see the new converts ad- 
mitted into the fold. They stood round in the 
dim light, tall and fantastic, with the high necks 
and supercilious heads of the camels swaying 
above them. 

" Now," said the Moolah, and his voice had 
lost its conciliatory and persuasive tone, "there 
is no more time for you. Here upon the ground 
I have made out of two sticks the foolish and 
superstitious symbol of your former creed. You 
will trample upon it, as a sign that you renounce 
it, and you will kiss the Koran, as a sign that 
you accept it, and what more you need in the 
way of instruction shall be given to you as you 
go. 

They stood up, the four men and the three 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 245 

women, to meet the crisis of their fate. None 
of them, except perhaps Miss Adams and Mrs. 
Belmont, had any deep religious convictions. All 
of them were children of this world, and some 
of them disagreed with everything which that 
symbol upon the earth represented. But there 
was the European pride, the pride of the white 
race which swelled within them, and held them 
to the faith of their countrymen. It was a 
sinful, human, un-Christian motive, and yet it 
was about to make them public martyrs to the 
Christian creed. In the hush and tension of 
their nerves low sounds grew suddenly loud 
upon their ears. Those swishing palm-leaves 
above them were like a swift-flowing river, and 
far away they could hear the dull, soft thudding 
of a galloping camel. 

" There's something coming," whispered Coch- 
rane. " Try and stave them off for five minutes 
longer, Fardet." 

The Frenchman stepped out with a courteous 
wave of his uninjured arm, and the air of a man 
who is prepared to accommodate himself to any- 
thing. 



246 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

" You will tell this holy man that I am quite 
ready to accept his teaching, and so I am sure 
are all my friends," said he to the dragoman. 
"But there is one thing which I should wish 
him to do in order to set at rest any possible 
doubts which may remain in our hearts. Every 
true religion can be told by the miracles which 
those who profess it can bring about. Even I 
who am but a humble Christian, can, by virtue 
of my religion, do some of these. But you, since 
your religion is superior, can no doubt do far 
more, and so I beg you to give us a sign that 
we may be able to say that we know that the 
religion of Islam is the more powerful." 

Behind all his dignity and reserve, the Arab 
has a good fund of curiosity. The hush among 
the listening Arabs showed how the words of the 
Frenchman as translated by Mansoor appealed 
to them. 

" Such things are in the hands of Allah," said 
the priest. " It is not for us to disturb His laws. 
But if you have yourself such powers as you claim, 
let us be witnesses to them." 

The Frenchman stepped forward, and raising 




HE TOOK A SHINING DATE OUT OF THE MOOLAH'S BEARD. 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 249 

his hand he took a large, shining date out of the 
Moolah's beard. This he swallowed and immedi- 
ately produced once more from his left elbow. 
He had often given his little conjuring entertain- 
ment on board the boat, and his fellow-passengers 
had had some good-natured laughter at his ex- 
pense, for he was not quite skilful enough to 
deceive the critical European intelligence. But 
now it looked as if this piece of obvious palming 
might be the point upon which all their fates 
would hang. A deep hum of surprise rose from 
the ring of Arabs, and deepened as the French- 
man drew another date from the nostril of a 
camel and tossed it into the air, from which, 
apparently, it never descended. That gaping 
sleeve was obvious enough to his companions, 
but the dim light was all in favour of the per- 
former. So delighted and interested was the 
audience that they paid little heed to a mounted 
camel-man who trotted swiftly between the palm 
trunks. All might have been well had not Far- 
det, carried away by his own success, tried to 
repeat his trick once more, with the result that 
the date fell out of his palm, and the deception 



250 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

stood revealed. In vain he tried to pass on at 
once to another of his little stock. The Moolah 
said something, and an Arab struck Fardet across 
the shoulders with the thick shaft of his spear. 

"We have had enough child's play," said the 
angry priest. " Are we men or babes, that you 
should try to impose upon us in this manner? 
Here is the cross and the Koran — which shall 
it be ? " 

Fardet looked helplessly round at his com- 
panions. 

," I can do no more ; you asked for five minutes. 
You have had them," said he to Colonel Cochrane. 

"And perhaps it is enough," the soldier 
answered. " Here are the Emirs." 

The camel- man, whose approach they had 
heard from afar, had made for the two Arab 
chiefs, and had delivered a brief report to them, 
stabbing with his forefinger in the direction from 
which he had come. There was a rapid exchange 
of words between the Emirs, and then they strode 
forward together to the group around the prisoners. 
Bigots and barbarians, they were none the less 
two most majestic men, as they advanced through 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 251 

the twilight of the palm grove. The fierce old 
greybeard raised his hand and spoke swiftly in 
short, abrupt sentences, and his savage followers 
yelped to him like hounds to a huntsman. The 
fire that smouldered in his arrogant eyes shone 
back at him from a hundred others. Here were 
to be read the strength and danger of the Mahdi 
movement ; here in these convulsed faces, in that 
fringe of waving arms, in these frantic, red-hot 
souls, who asked nothing better than a bloody 
death, if their own hands might be bloody when 
they met it. 

" Have the prisoners embraced the true faith ? " 
asked the Emir Abderrahman, looking at them 
with his cruel eyes. 

The Moolah had his reputation to preserve, and 
it was not for him to confess to a failure. 

" They were about to embrace it, when " 

" Let it rest for a little time, Moolah." He 
gave an order, and the Arabs all sprang for their 
camels. The Emir Wad Ibrahim filed off at once 
with nearly half the party. The others were 
mounted and ready, with their rifles unslung. 

" What's happened ? " asked Belmont. 



252 THE TEAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

" Things are looking up," cried the Colonel. 
" By George, I think we are going to come 
through all right. The Gippy Camel Corps are 
hot on our trail." 

" How do you know ? " 

" What else could have scared them ? " 

" Colonel, do you really think we shall be 
saved ? " sobbed Sadie. The dull routine of misery 
through which they had passed had deadened all 
their nerves until they seemed incapable of any 
acute sensation, but now this sudden return of 
hope brought agony with it like the recovery of a 
frost-bitten limb. Even the strong, self-contained 
Belmont was filled with doubts and apprehensions. 
He had been hopeful when there was no sign 
of relief, and now the approach of it set him 
trembling. 

" Surely they wouldn't come very weak," he 
cried. "Be Jove, if the Commandant let them 
come weak, he should be court-martialled." 

" Sure we're in God's hands, anyway," said his 
wife, in her soothing, Irish voice. " Kneel down 
with me, John, dear, if it's the last time, and pray 
that, earth or heaven, we may not be divided." 




"FOR your life s sake, STAND Ul 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 255 

"Don't do that! Don't!" cried the Colonel 
anxiously, for he saw that the eye of the Moolah 
was upon them. But it was too late, for the two 
Koman Catholics had dropped upon their knees 
and crossed themselves. A spasm of fury passed 
over the face of the Mussulman priest at this public 
testimony to the failure of his missionary efforts. 
He turned and said something to the Emir. 

" Stand up ! " cried Mansoor. " For your life's 
sake, stand up ! He is asking for leave to put 
you to death." 

" Let him do what he likes ! " said the obstinate 
Irishman ; " we will rise when our prayers are 
finished, and not before." 

The Emir stood listening to the Moolah, with 
his baleful gaze upon the two kneeling figures. 
Then he gave one or two rapid orders, and four 
camels were brought forward. The baggage- 
camels which they had hitherto ridden were stand- 
ing unsaddled where they had been tethered. 

" Don't be a fool, Belmont ! " cried the Colonel ; 
" everything depends upon our humouring them. 
Do get up, Mrs. Belmont ! You are only putting 
their backs up ! " 



256 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

The Frenchman shrugged his shoulders as he 
looked at them. " Mon Dieu ! " he cried, " were 
there ever such impracticable people ? Voilci ! " 
he added, with a shriek, as the two American 
ladies fell upon their knees beside Mrs. Belmont. 
" It is like the camels — one down, all down ! 
Was ever anything so absurd ? " 

But Mr. Stephens had knelt down beside Sadie 
and buried his haggard face in his long, thin 
hands. Only the Colonel and Monsieur Fardet 
remained standing. Cochrane looked at the 
Frenchman with an interrogative eye. 

" After all," said he, " it is stupid to pray all 
your life, and not to pray now when we have 
nothing to hope for except through the goodness 
of Providence." He dropped upon his knees with 
a rigid, military back, but his grizzled, unshaven 
chin upon his chest. The Frenchman looked 
at his kneeling companions, and then his eyes 
travelled onwards to the angry faces of the Emir 
and Moolah. 

" Sapristi ! " he growled. " Do they suppose 
that a Frenchman is afraid of them ? " and so, 
with an ostentatious sign of the cross, he took his 




"DON'T FRET, JOHN!" CRIED HIS WIFE, 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 259 

place upon his knees beside the others. Foul, 
bedraggled, and wretched, the seven figures knelt 
and waited humbly for 'their fate under the black 
shadow of the palm-tree. 

The Emir turned to the Moolah with a mocking 
smile, and pointed at the results of his ministra- 
tions. Then he gave an order, and in an instant 
the four men were seized. A couple of deft turns 
with a camel-halter secured each of their wrists. 
Fardet screamed out, for the rope had bitten into 
his open wound. The others took it with the 
dignity of despair. 

" You have ruined everything. I believe you 
have ruined me also ! " cried Mansoor, wringing 
his hands. " The women are to get upon these 
three camels." 

" Never ! " cried Belmont. " We won't be 
separated ! " He plunged madly, but he was 
weak from privation, and two strong men held 
him by each elbow. 

" Don't fret, John ! " cried his wife, as they 
hurried her towards the camel. " No harm shall 
come to me. Don't struggle, or they'll hurt 
you, dear." 



260 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

The four men writhed as they saw the women 
dragged away from them. All their agonies had 
been nothing to this. Sadie and her aunt 
appeared to be half senseless from fear. Only 
Mrs. Belmont kept a brave face. When they 
were seated the camels rose, and were led under 
the tree behind where the four men were 
standing. 

" I've a pistol in me pocket," said Belmont, 
looking up at his wife. " I would give me soul 
to be able to pass it to you." 

" Keep it, John, and it may be useful yet. I 
have no fears. Ever since we prayed I have felt 
as if our guardian angels had their wings round 
us." She was like a guardian angel herself as 
she turned to the shrinking Sadie, and coaxed 
some little hope back into her dispairing heart. 

The short, thick Arab, who had been in com- 
mand of Wad Ibrahim's rearguard, had joined 
the Emir and the Moolah ; the three consulted 
together, with occasional oblique glances towards 
the prisoners. Then the Emir spoke to Mansoor. 

" The chief wishes to know which of you four 
is the richest man ? " said the dragoman. His 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 261 

fingers were twitching with nervousness and 
plucking incessantly at the front of his cover- 
coat. 

" Why does he wish to know ? " asked the 
Colonel. 

" I do not know." 

" But it is evident," cried Monsieur Fardet. 
" He wishes to know which is the best worth 
keeping for his ransom." 

" I think we should see this thing through 
together," said the Colonel. " It's really for you 
to decide, Stephens, for I have no doubt that you 
are the richest of us." 

" I don't know that I am," the lawyer answered ; 
" but in any case, I have no wish to be placed 
upon a different footing to the others." 

The Emir spoke again in his harsh rasping 
voice. 

" He says," Mansoor translated, " that the bag- 
gage-camels are spent, and that there is only one 
beast left which can keep up. It is ready now 
for one of you, and you have to decide among 
yourselves which is to have it. If one is richer 
than the others, he will have the preference." 



262 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

" Tell him that we are all equally rich." 

" In that case he says that you are to choose 
at once which is to have the camel.'' 

" And the others ? " 

The dragoman shrugged his shoulders. 

" Well," said the Colonel, " if only one of us 
is to escape, I think you fellows will agree with 
me that it ought to be Belmont, since he is the 
married man." 

"Yes, yes, let it be Monsieur Belmont," cried 
Fardet. 

" I think so also," said Stephens. 

But the Irishman would not hear of it. 

"No, no, share and share alike," he cried. "All 
sink or all swim, and the devil take the flincher." 

They wrangled among themselves until they 
became quite heated in this struggle of unselfish- 
ness. Some one had said that the Colonel should 
go because he was the oldest, and the Colonel was 
a very angry man. 

" One would think I was an octogenarian," he 
cried. " These remarks are quite uncalled for." 

" Well, then," said Belmont, " let us all refuse 
to go." 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 263 

" But this is not very wise," cried the French- 
man. " See, my friends ! Here are the ladies 
being carried off alone. Surely it would be far 
better that one of us should be with them to 
advise them." 

They looked at one another in perplexity. 
What Fardet said was obviously true, but how 
could one of them desert his comrades ? The 
Emir himself suggested the solution. 

" The chief says," said Mansoor, " that if you 
cannot settle who is to go, you had better leave 
it to Allah and draw lots." 

" I don't think we can do better," said the 
Colonel, and his three companions nodded their 
assent. 

It was the Moolah who approached them 
with four splinters of palm-bark protruding 
from between his fingers. 

" He says that he who draws the longest has 
the camel," said Mansoor. 

" We must agree to abide absolutely by this," 
said Cochrane, and again his companions nodded. 

The Dervishes had formed a semicircle in 
front of them, with a fringe of the oscillating 



264 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

heads of the camels. Before them was a cooking 
fire, which threw its red light over the group. 
The Emir was standing with his back to it, and 
his fierce face towards the prisoners. Behind the 
four men was a line of guards, and behind them 
again the three women, who looked down from 
their camels upon this tragedy. With a malicious 
smile, the fat, one-eyed Moolah advanced with 
his fist closed, and the four little brown spicules 
protruding from between his fingers. 

It was to Belmont that he held them first. 
The Irishman gave an involuntary groan, and 
his wife gasped behind him, for the splinter 
came away in his hand. Then it was the 
Frenchman's turn, and his was half an inch 
longer than Belmont's. Then came Colonel 
Cochrane, whose piece was longer than the two 
others put together. Stephens' was no bigger 
than Belmont's. The Colonel was the winner 
of this terrible lottery. 

" You're welcome to my place, Belmont," 
said he. " I've neither wife nor child, and hardly 
a friend in the world. Go with your wife, and 
111 stay." 




THE COLONEL WAS THE WINNER OF THIS TERRIBLE LOTTERY. 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 267 

" No, indeed ! An agreement is an agree- 
ment. It's all fair play, and the prize to the 
luckiest." 

"The Emir says that you are to mount at 
once," said Mansoor, and an Arab dragged the 
Colonel by his wrist-rope to the waiting camel. 

" He will stay with the rearguard," said the 
Emir to his lieutenant. "You can keep the 
women with you also." 

" And this dragoman dog ? " 

" Put him with the others." 

" And they ? " 

" Put them all to death. 



CHAPTER IX 

As none of the three could understand Arabic, 
the order of the Emir would have been unintel- 
ligible to them had it not been for the conduct 
of Mansoor. The unfortunate dragoman, after ah 
his treachery and all his subservience and apos- 
tasy, found his worst fears realised when the 
Dervish leader gave his curt command. With 
a shriek of fear the poor wretch threw himself 
forward upon his face, and clutched at the edge 
of the Arab's jibbeh, clawing with his brown 
fingers at the edge of the cotton skirt. The 
Emir tugged to free himself, and then, finding 
that he was still held by that convulsive grip, he 
turned and kicked at Mansoor with the vicious 
impatience with which one drives off a pestering 
cur. The dragoman's high red tarboosh flew up 
into the air, and he lay groaning upon his face 
where the" stunning blow of the Arab's horny foot 
had left him. 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOKOSKO 269 

All was bustle and movement in the camp, for 
the old Emir had mounted his camel, and some 
of his party were already beginning to follow 
their companions. The squat lieutenant, the 
Moolah, and about a dozen Dervishes surrounded 
the prisoners. They had not mounted their 
camels, for they were told off to be the ministers 
of death. The three men understood as they 
looked upon their faces that the sand was run- 
ning very low in the glass of their lives. Their 
hands were still bound, but their guards had 
ceased to hold them. They turned round, all 
three, and said good-bye to the women upon the 
camels. 

" All up now, Norah," said Belmont. " It's 
hard luck when there was a chance of a rescue, 
but we've done our best." 

For the first time his wife had broken down. 
She was sobbing convulsively, with her face 
between her hands. 

" Don't cry, little woman ! We've had a good 
time together. Give my love to all friends at 
Bray ! Remember me to Amy McCarthy and to 
the Blessingtons. You'll find there is enough 



270 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

and to spare, but I would take Rogers's advice 
about the investments. Mind that ! " 

" O John, I won't live without you ! " Sorrow 
for her sorrow broke the strong man down, and 
he buried his face in the hairy side of her camel. 
The two of them sobbed helplessly together. 

Stephens meanwhile had pushed his way to 
Sadie's beast. She saw his worn earnest face 
looking up at her through the dim light. 

" Don't be afraid for your aunt and for your- 
self," said he. " I am sure that you will escape. 
Colonel Cochrane will look after you. The 
Egyptians cannot be far behind. I do hope you 
will have a good drink before you leave the 
wells. I wish I could give your aunt my jacket, 
for it will be cold to-night. I'm afraid I can't 
get it off. She should keep some of the bread, 
and eat it in the early morning." 

He spoke quite quietly, like a man who is 
arranging the details of a picnic. A sudden glow 
of admiration for this quietly consistent man 
warmed her impulsive heart. 

" How unselfish you are ! " she cried. " I never 
saw any one like you. Talk about saints ! There 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 271 

you stand in the very presence of death, and you 
think only of us." 

" I want to say a last word to you, Sadie, if 
you don't mind. I should die so much happier. 
I have * often wanted to speak to you, but I 
thought that perhaps you would laugh, for you 
never took anything very seriously, did you ? 
That was quite natural of course with your high 
spirits, but still it was very serious to me. But 
now I am really a dead man, so it does not 
matter very much what I say." 

"Oh don't, Mr. Stephens !" cried the girl. 

" I won't, if it is very painful to you. As I 
said, it would make me die happier, but I don't 
want to be selfish about it. If I thought it would 
darken your life afterwards, or be a sad recollec- 
tion to you, I would not say another word." 

" What did you wish to say ? " 

" It was only to tell you how I loved you. I 
always loved you. From the first I was a diffe- 
rent man when I was with you. But of course 
it was absurd, I knew that well enough. I never 
said anything, and I tried not to make myself 
ridiculous. But I just want you to know about 



272 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

it now that it can't matter one way or the other. 
You'll understand that I really do love you when 
I tell you that, if it were not that I knew you 
were frightened and unhappy, these last two days 
in which we have been always together would have 
been infinitely the happiest of my life." 

The girl sat pale and silent, looking down with 
wondering eyes at his upturned face. She did 
not know what to do or say in the solemn pre- 
sence of this love which burned so brightly unde 
the shadow of death. To her child's heart it 
seemed incomprehensible — and yet she under- 
stood that it was sweet and beautiful also. 

" I won't say any more," said he ; "I can see 
that it only bothers you. But I wanted you to 
know, and now you do know, so it is all right. 
Thank you for listening so patiently and gently. 
Good-bye, little Sadie ! I can't put my hand up. 
Will you put yours down ? " 

She did so and Stephens kissed it. Then he 
turned and took his place once more between 
Belmont and Fardet. In his whole life of struggle 
and success he had never felt such a glow of 
quiet contentment as suffused him at that in- 




GOOD-BYE, LITTLE SADIE 



THE TKAGEDY OF THE KOKOSKO 275 

stant when the grip of death was closing upon 
him. There is no arguing about love.- It is the 
innermost fact of life — the one which obscures 
and changes all the others, the only one which 
is absolutely satisfying and complete. Pain is 
pleasure, and want is comfort, and death is sweet- 
ness when once that golden mist is round it. 
So it was that Stephens could have sung with joy 
as he faced his murderers. He really had not 
time to think about them. The important, all- 
engrossing, delightful thing was that she could 
.not look upon him as a casual acquaintance any 
more. Through all her life she would think of 
him — she would know. 

Colonel Cochrane's camel was at one side, and 
the old soldier, whose wrists had been freed, had 
been looking down upon the scene, and wondering 
in his tenacious way whether all hope must really 
be abandoned. It was evident that the Arabs 
who were grouped round the victims were to re- 
main behind with them, while the others who 
were mounted would guard the three women and 
himself. He could not understand why the 
throats of his companions had not been already 



276 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

cut, unless it were that with an Eastern refine- 
ment of cruelty this rearguard would wait until 
the Egyptians were close to them, so that the 
warm bodies of their victims might be an insult 
to the pursuers. No doubt that was the right 
explanation. The Colonel had heard of such a 
trick before. 

But in that case there would not be more than 
twelve Arabs with the prisoners. Were there 
any of the friendly ones among them ? If Tippy 
Tilly and six of his men were there, and if 
Belmont could get his arms free and his hand 
upon his revolver, they might come through yet. 
The Colonel craned his neck and groaned in his 
disappointment. He could see the faces of the 
guards in the firelight. They were all Baggara 
Arabs, men who were beyond either pity or 
bribery. Tippy Tilly and the others must have 
gone on with the advance. For the first time 
the stiff old soldier abandoned hope. 

" Good-bye, you fellows ! God bless you ! " he 
cried, as a negro pulled at his camel's nose-ring 
and made him follow the others. The women 
came after him, in a misery too deep for words. 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 277 

Their departure was a relief to the three men 
who were left. 

" I am glad they are gone," said Stephens, from 
his heart. 

" Yes, yes, it is better," cried Fardet. " How 
long are we to wait ? " 

" Not very long now," said Belmont grimly, as 
the Arabs closed in around them. 

The Colonel and the three women gave one 
backward glance when they came to the edge 
of the oasis. Between the straight stems of the 
palms they saw the gleam of the fire, and above 
the group of Arabs they caught a last glimpse 
of the three white hats. An instant later, the 
camels began to trot, and when they looked 
back once more the palm grove was only a black 
clump with the vague twinkle of a light some- 
where in the heart of it. As with yearning eyes 
they gazed at that throbbing red point in the 
darkness, they passed over the edge of the de- 
pression, and in an instant the huge, silent, 
moonlit desert was round them without a sign 
of the oasis which they had left. On every side 
the velvet, blue-black sky, with its blazing stars, 



278 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

sloped downwards to the vast, dun-coloured plain. 
The two were blurred into one at their point of 
junction. 

The women had sat in the silence of despair, 
and the Colonel had been silent also — for what 
could he say ? — but suddenly all four started in 
their saddles, and Sadie gave a sharp cry of 
dismay. In the hush of the night there had come 
from behind them the petulant crack of a rifle, 
then another, then several together, with a brisk 
rat-tat-tat, and then, after an interval, one more. 

" It may be the rescuers ! It may be the 
Egyptians ! " cried Mrs. Belmont, with a sudden 
flicker of hope. " Colonel Cochrane, don't you 
think it may be the Egyptians ? " 

" Yes, yes," Sadie whimpered. " It must be 
the Egyptians." 

The Colonel had listened expectantly, but all 
was silent again. Then he took his hat off with 
a solemn gesture. 

" There is no use deceiving ourselves, Mrs 
Belmont," said he ; " we may as well face the 
truth. Our friends are gone from us, but they 
have met their end like brave men." 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 279 

" But why should they fire their guns ? They 
had . . . they had spears." She shuddered as 
she said it. 

"That is true," said the Colonel. "I would not 
for the world take away any real grounds of 
hope which you may have ; but on the other hand, 
there is no use in preparing bitter disappoint- 
ments for ourselves. If we had been listening 
to an attack, we should have heard some reply. 
Besides, an Egyptian attack would have been an 
attack in force. No doubt it is, as you say, a 
little strange that they should have wasted their 
cartridges — by Jove, look at that ! " 

He was pointing over the eastern desert. Two 
figures were moving across its expanse, swiftly 
and stealthily, furtive dark shadows against the 
lighter ground. They saw them dimly, dipping 
and rising over the rolling desert, now lost, now 
reappearing in the uncertain light. They were 
flying away from the Arabs. And then, suddenly 
they halted upon the summit of a sand-hill, and the 
prisoners could see them outlined plainly against 
the sky. They were camel-men, but they sat their 
camels astride as a horseman sits his horse. 



280 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

" Gippy Camel Corps ! " cried the Colonel. 

"Two men," said Miss Adams, in a voice of 
despair. 

" Only a vedette, ma'am ! Throwing feelers out 
all over the desert. This is one of them. Main 
body ten miles off, as likely as not. There they 
go giving the alarm ! Good old Camel Corps ! " 

The self-contained, methodical soldier had sud- 
denly turned almost inarticulate with his excite- 
ment. There was a red flash upon the top of the 
sand-hill, and then another, followed by the crack 
of the rifles. Then with a whisk the two figures 
were gone, as swiftly and silently as two trout in 
a stream. 

The Arabs had halted for an instant, as if 
uncertain whether they should delay their jour- 
ney to pursue them or not. There was nothing 
left to pursue now, for amid the undulations of 
the sand-drift the vedettes might have gone in 
any direction. The Emir galloped back along 
the line, with exhortations and orders. Then 
the camels began to trot, and the hopes of the 
prisoners were dulled by the agonies of the 
terrible jolt. Mile after mile, and mile after mile, 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 281 

they sped onwards over that vast expanse, the 
women clinging as best they might to the pom- 
mels, the Colonel almost as spent as they, but 
still keenly on the look-out for any sign of the 
pursuers. 

"I think ... I think," cried Mrs. Belmont, 
" that something is moving in front of us." 

The Colonel raised himself upon his saddle, and 
screened his eyes from the moonshine. 

" By Jove, you're right there, ma'am. There 
are men over yonder." 

They could all see them now, a straggling line 
of riders far ahead of them in the desert. 

" They are going in the same direction as we," 
cried Mrs. Belmont, whose eyes were very much 
better than the Colonel's. 

Cochrane muttered an oath into his moustache. 

" Look at the tracks there," said he ; " of course, 
it's our own vanguard who left the palm grove 
before us. The chief keeps us at this infernal 
pace in order to close up with them." 

As they drew closer they could see plainly that 
it was indeed the other body of Arabs, and pre- 
sently the Emir Wad Ibrahim came trotting 



282 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

back to take counsel with the Emir Abderrah- 
man. They pointed in the direction in which the 
vedettes had appeared, and shook their heads 
like men who have many and grave misgivings. 
Then the raiders joined into one long, straggling 
line, and the whole body moved steadily on 
towards the Southern Cross, which was twinkling 
just over the skyline in front of them. Hour 
after hour the dreadful trot continued, while 
the fainting ladies clung on convulsively, and 
Cochrane, worn out but indomitable, encouraged 
them to hold out, and peered backwards over the 
desert for the. first glad signs of their pursuers. 
The blood throbbed in his temples, and he cried 
that he heard the roll of drums coming out of the 
darkness. In his feverish delirium he saw clouds 
of pursuers at their very heels, and during the 
long night he was for ever crying glad, tidings 
which ended in disappointment and heartache. 
The rise of the sun showed the desert stretching 
away around them with nothing moving upon its 
monstrous face except themselves. With dull 
eyes and heavy hearts they stared round at that 
huge and empty expanse. Their hopes thinned 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 283 

away like the light morning mist upon the 
horizon. 

It was shocking to the ladies to look at their 
companion, and to think of the spruce, hale old 
soldier who had been their fellow-passenger from 
Cairo. As in the case of Miss Adams, old age 
seemed to have pounced upon him in one spring. 
His hair, which had grizzled hour by hour dur- 
ing his privations, was now of a silvery white. 
White stubble, too, had obscured the firm, clean 
line of his chin and throat. The veins of his 
face were injected, and his features were shot 
with heavy wrinkles. He rode with his back 
arched and his chin sunk upon his breast, for the 
old, time-rotted body was worn out, but in his 
bright, alert eyes there was always a trace of the 
gallant tenant who lived in the shattered house. 
Delirious, spent, and dying, he preserved his 
chivalrous, protecting air as he turned to the 
ladies, shot little scraps of advice and encour- 
agement at them, and peered back continually for 
the help which never came. 

An hour after sunrise the raiders called a halt, 
and food and water were served out to all. Then 



284 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

at a more moderate pace they pursued their 
southern journey, their long, straggling line trail- 
ing out over a quarter of a mile of desert. From 
their more careless bearing and the way in which 
they chatted as they rode, it was clear that they 
thought that they had shaken off their pursuers. 
Their direction now was east as well as south, 
and it was evidently their intention after this 
long detour to strike the Nile again at some 
point far above the Egyptian outposts. Already 
the character of the scenery was changing, and 
they were losing the long levels of the pebbly 
desert, and coming once more upon those fantas- 
tic, sunburned, black rocks, and that rich orange 
sand through which they had already passed. 
On every side of them rose the scaly, conical 
hills with their loose, slag-like debris, and jagged- 
edged khors, with sinuous streams of sand run- 
ning like water- courses down their centre. The 
camels followed each other, twisting in and out 
among the boulders, and scrambling with their 
adhesive, spongy feet over places which would 
have been impossible for horses. Among the 
broken rocks those behind could sometimes only 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 285 

see the long, undulating, darting necks of the 
creatures in front, as if it were some nightmare 
procession of serpents. Indeed, it had much the 
effect of a dream upon the prisoners, for there 
was no sound, save the soft, dull padding and 
shuffling of the feet. The strange, wild frieze 
moved slowly and silently onwards amid a setting 
of black stone and yellow sand, with the one arch 
of vivid blue spanning the rugged edges of the 
ravine. 

Miss Adams, who had been frozen into silence 
during the long cold night, began to thaw now 
in the cheery warmth of the rising sun. She 
looked about her, and rubbed her thin hands 
together. 

" Why, Sadie," she remarked, " I thought I 
heard you in the night, dear, and now I see that 
you have been crying." 

" I've been thinking, auntie." 

"Well, we must try and think of others, 
dearie, and not of ourselves." 

" It's not of myself, auntie." 

" Never fret about me, Sadie." 

" No, auntie, I was not thinking of you." 



286 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

" Was it of any one in particular ? " 
" Of Mr. Stephens, auntie. How gentle he 
was, and how brave ! To think of him fixing up 
every little thing for us, and trying to pull his 
jacket over his poor roped-up hands, with those 
murderers waiting all round him. He's my saint 
and hero from now ever after." 

" Well, he's out of his troubles anyhow," said 
Miss Adams, with that bluntness which the 
years bring with them. 

" Then I wish I was also." 
" I don't see how that would help him." 
" Well, I think he might feel less lonesome," 
said Sadie, and drooped her saucy little chin 
upon her breast. 

The four had been riding in silence for some 
little time, when the Colonel clapped his hand to 
his brow with a gesture of dismay. 

"Good God! " he cried, "I am going off my head." 
Again and again they had perceived it during 
the night, but he had seemed quite rational 
since daybreak. They were shocked therefore 
at this sudden outbreak, and tried to calm him 
with soothing words. 




ON THIS PINNACLE STOOD A SOLITARY, MOTIONLESS FIGURE. 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 289 

" Mad as a hatter," he shouted. " Whatever 
do you think I saw ? " 

" Don't trouble about it, whatever it was," said 
Mrs. Belmont, laying her hand soothingly upon 
his as the camels closed together. " It is no won- 
der that you are overdone. You have thought 
and worked for all of us so long. We shall 
halt presently, and a few hours' sleep will quite 
restore you." 

But the Colonel looked up again, and again he 
cried out in his agitation and surprise. 

" I never saw anything plainer in my life," he 
groaned. " It is on the point of rock on our 
right front — poor old Stuart with my red cum- 
merbund round his head just the same as we left 
him." 

The ladies had followed the direction of the 
Colonel's frightened gaze, and in an instant they 
were all as amazed as he. 

There was a black, bulging ridge like a bastion 
upon the right side of the terrible khor up 
which the camels were winding. At one point 
it rose into a small pinnacle. On this pinnacle 
stood a solitary, motionless figure, clad entirely 



290 THE TEAGEDY OF THE KOKOSKO 

in black, save for a brilliant dash of scarlet 
upon his head. There could not surely be two 
such short sturdy figures, or such large colour- 
less faces, in the Libyan Desert. His shoulders 
were stooping forward, and he seemed to be star- 
ing intently down into the ravine. His pose and 
outline were like a caricature of the great Napoleon. 

" Can it possibly be he ? " 

" It must be. It is ! " cried the ladies. " You 
see he is looking towards us and waving his hand. 

" Good Heavens ! They'll shoot him ! Get 
down, you fool, or you'll be shot ! " roared the 
Colonel. But his dry throat would only emit 
a discordant croaking. 

Several of the Dervishes had seen the singular 
apparition upon the hill, and had unslung their 
Remingtons, but a long arm suddenly shot up 
behind the figure of the Birmingham clergy- 
man, a brown hand seized upon his skirts, and 
he disappeared with a snap. Higher up the pass, 
just below the spot where Mr. Stuart had been 
standing, appeared the tall figure of the Emir 
Abderrahman. He had sprung upon a boulder, 
and was shouting and waving his arms, but the 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 291 

shouts were drowned in a long, rippling roar of 
musketry from each side of the khor. The 
bastion-like cliff was fringed with gun-barrels, with 
red tarbooshes drooping over the triggers. From 
the other lip also came the long spurts of flame 
and the angry clatter of the rifles. The raiders 
were caught in an ambuscade. The Emir fell, but 
was up again and waving. There was a splotch of 
blood upon his long white beard. He kept point- 
ing and gesticulating, but his scattered followers 
could not understand what he wanted. Some of 
them came tearing down the pass, and some from 
behind were pushing to the front. A few dis- 
mounted and tried to climb up sword in hand to 
that deadly line of muzzles, but one by one they 
were hit, and came rolling from rock to rock to 
the bottom of the ravine. The shooting was not 
very good. One negro made his way unharmed 
up the whole side, only to have his brains dashed 
out with the butt-end of a Martini at the top. 
The Emir had fallen off his rock and lay in a 
crumpled heap, like a brown and white patch- 
work quilt, at the bottom of it. And then when 
half of them were down it became evident, even 



292 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

to those exalted fanatical souls, that there was no 
chance for them, and that they must get out 
of these fatal rocks and into the desert again. 
They galloped down the pass, and it is a frightful 
thing to see a camel galloping over broken 
ground. The beast's own terror, his ungainly 
bounds, the sprawl of his four legs all in the air 
together, his hideous cries, and the yells of his 
rider who is bucked high from his saddle with 
every spring, make a picture which is not to be 
forgotten. The women screamed as this mad 
torrent of frenzied creatures came pouring past 
them, but the Colonel edged his camel and theirs 
farther and farther in among the rocks and away 
from the retreating Arabs. The air was full of 
whistling bullets, and they could hear them 
smacking loudly against the stones all round 
them. 

" Keep quiet, and they'll pass us," whispered the 
Colonel, who was all himself again now that the 
hour for action had arrived. " I wish to Heaven 
I could see Tippy Tilly or any of his friends. 
Now is the time for them to help us." He 
watched the mad stream of fugitives as they flew 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 293 

past upon their shambling, squattering, loose- 
jointed beasts, but the black face of the Egyptian 
gunner was not among them. 

And now it really did seem as if the whole 
body of them, in their haste to get clear of the 
ravine, had not a thought to spend upon the 
prisoners. The rush was past, and only strag- 
glers were running the gantlet of the fierce fire 
which poured upon them from above. The last 
of all, a young Baggara with a black moustache 
and pointed beard, looked up as he passed and 
shook his sword in impotent passion at the 
Egyptian riflemen. At the same instant a bullet 
struck his camel, and the creature collapsed, all 
neck and legs, upon the ground. The young 
Arab sprang off its back, and, seizing its nose- 
ring, he beat it savagely with the flat of his sword 
to make it stand up. But the dim, glazing eye 
told its own tale, and in desert warfare the death 
of the beast is the death of the rider. The 
Baggara glared round like a lion at bay, his 
dark eyes flashing murderously from under his 
red turban. A crimson spot, and then another, 
sprang out upon his dark skin, but he never 



294 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

winced at the bullet wounds. His fierce gaze had 
fallen upon the prisoners, and with an exultant 
shout he was dashing towards them, his broad- 
bladed sword gleaming above his head. Miss 
Adams was the nearest to him, but at the sight of 
the rushing figure and the maniac face she threw 
herself off the camel upon the far side. The 
Arab bounded on to a rock and aimed a thrust at 
Mrs. Belmont, but before the point could reach 
her the Colonel leaned forward with his pistol 
and blew the man's head in. Yet with a con- 
centrated rage, which was superior even to the 
agony of death, the fellow lay kicking and strik- 
ing, bounding about among the loose stones like 
a fish upon the shingle. 

" Don't be frightened, ladies," cried the Colonel. 
" He is quite dead, I assure you. I am so sorry 
to have done this in your presence, but the fellow 
was dangerous. I had a little score of my own 
to settle with him, for he was the man who tried 
to break my ribs with his Kemington. I hope 
you are not hurt, Miss Adams ! One instant, and 
I will come down to you." 

But the old Boston lady was by no means hurt, 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 295 

for the rocks had been so high that she had a very 
short distance to fall from her saddle. Sadie, Mrs. 
Belmont, and Colonel Cochrane had all descended 
by slipping on to the boulders and climbing down 
from them. But they found Miss Adams on her 
feet, and waving the remains of her green veil in 
triumph. 

" Hurrah, Sadie ! Hurrah, my own darling 
Sadie ! " she was shrieking. " We are saved, my 
girl, we are saved after all." 

" By George, so we are ! " cried the Colonel, and 
they all shouted in an ecstasy together. 

But Sadie had learned to think more about 
others during those terrible days of schooling. 
Her arms were round Mrs. Belmont, and her 
cheek against hers. 

" You dear, sweet angel," she cried, " how can 
we have the heart to be glad when you — when 
you " 

" But I don't believe it is so," cried the brave 
Irishwoman. " No, 111 never believe it until I 
see John's body lying before me. And when I 
see that, I don't want to live to see anything 
more." 



296 THE TKAGEDY OF THE KOKOSKO 

The last Dervish had clattered down the khor, 
and now above them on either cliff they could 
see the Egyptians — tall, thin, square shouldered 
figures, looking, when outlined against the blue 
sky, wonderfully like the warriors in the ancient 
bas-reliefs. Their camels were in the back- 
ground, and they were hurrying to join them. 
At the same time others began to ride down from 
the farther end of the ravine, their dark faces 
flushed and their eyes shining with the excite- 
ment of victory and pursuit. A very small Eng- 
lishman, with a straw-coloured moustache and a 
weary manner, was riding at the head of them. 
He halted his camel beside the fugitives and 
saluted the ladies. He wore brown boots and 
brown belts with steel buckles, which looked trim 
and workmanlike against his kharki uniform. 

" Had 'em that time — had 'em proper ! " said 
he. " Very glad to have been of any assistance, 
I'm shaw. Hope you're none the worse for it all. 
What I mean, it's rather rough work for ladies." 

" You're from Haifa, I suppose ? " asked the 
Colonel. 

" No, we're from the other show. We're the 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 297 

Sarras crowd, you know. We met in the desert, 
and we headed 'em off, and the other Johnnies 
herded 'em behind. We've got 'em on toast, I 
tell you. Get up on that rock and you'll see 
things happen. It's going to be a knockout in 
one round this time." 

"We left some of our people at the Wells. 
We are very uneasy about them," said the Colonel. 
" I suppose you haven't heard anything of them ? " 

The young officer looked serious and shook his 
head. "Bad job that!" said he. "They're a 
poisonous crowd when you put 'em in a corner. 
What I mean, we never expected to see you alive, 
and we're very glad to pull any of you out of the 
fire. The most we hoped was that we might 
revenge you." 

" Any other Englishman with you ? " 

" Archer is with the flanking party. He'll have 
to come past, for I don't think there is any other 
way down. We've got one of your chaps up 
there — a funny old bird with a red top-knot. 
See you later, I hope ! Good day, ladies ! " He 
touched his helmet, tapped his camel, and trotted 
on after his men. 



298 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

"We can't do better than stay where we are 
until they are all past," said the Colonel, for it 
was evident now that the men from above would 
have to come round. In a broken single file 
they went past, black men and brown, Soudanese 
and fellaheen, but all of the best, for the Camel 
Corps is the corps oVdite of the Egyptian army. 
Each had a brown bandolier over his chest and 
his rifle held across his thigh. A large man with 
a drooping black moustache and a pair of bino- 
culars in his hand was riding at the side of them. 

" Hulloa, Archer ! " croaked the Colonel. 

The officer looked at him with the vacant, 
unresponsive eye of a complete stranger. 

" I'm Cochrane, you know ! We travelled up 
together." 

"Excuse me, sir, but you have the advantage 
of me," said the officer. " I knew a Colonel 
Cochrane Cochrane, but you are not the man. 
He was three inches taller than you, with black 
hair and " 

" That's all right," cried the Colonel testily. 
" You try a few days with the Dervishes, and see 
if your friends will recognise you ! " 




"YOU HAVEN'T got such a thing as a cigar?" 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 301 

" Good God, Cochrane, is it really you ? I 
could not have believed it. Great Scott, what 
you must have been through ! I've heard before 
of fellows going grey in a night, but, by 
Jove " 

" Quite so," said the Colonel, flushing. " Allow 
me to hint to you, Archer, that if you could get 
some food and drink for these ladies, instead of 
discussing my personal appearance, it would be 
much more practical." 

" That's all right," said Captain Archer. " Your 
friend Stuart knows that you are here, and he is 
bringing some stuff round for you. Poor fare, ladies, 
but the best we have ! You're an old soldier, 
Cochrane. Get up on the rocks presently, and 
you'll see a lovely sight. No time to stop, for 
we shall be in action again in five minutes. 
Anything I can do before I go ? " 

" You haven't got such a thing as a cigar ? " 
asked the Colonel wistfully. 

Archer drew a thick satisfying partaga from 
his case, and handed it down, with half-a-dozen 
wax vestas. Then he cantered after his men, and 
the old soldier leaned back against the rock and 



302 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

drew in the fragrant smoke. It was then that his 
jangled nerves knew the full virtue of tobacco, 
the gentle anodyne which stays the failing 
strength and soothes the worrying brain. He 
watched the dim blue reek swirling up from 
him, and he felt the pleasant aromatic bite upon 
his palate, while a restful languor crept over his 
weary and harassed body. The three ladies sat 
together upon a flat rock. 

" Good land, what a sight you are, Sadie ! " 
cried Miss Adams suddenly, and it was the first 
reappearance of her old self. " What would your 
mother say if she saw you ? Why, sakes alive, 
your hair is full of straw and your frock clean 
crazy I " 

" I guess we all want some setting to rights," 
said Sadie, in a voice which was much more 
subdued than that of the Sadie of old. " Mrs. 
Belmont, you look just too perfectly sweet any- 
how, but if you'll allow me I'll fix your dress for 
you." 

But Mrs. Belmont's eyes were far away, and she 
shook her head sadly as she gently put the girl's 
hands aside. 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 303 

" I do not care how I look. I cannot think of 
it," said she ; " could you, if you had left the man 
you love behind you, as I have mine ? " 

" I'm begin — beginning to think I have," sobbed 
poor Sadie, and buried her hot face in Mrs. Bel- 
mont's motherly bosom. 



CHAPTER X 

The Camel Corps had all passed onwards down 
the khor in pursuit of the retreating Dervishes, 
and for a few minutes the escaped prisoners had 
been left alone. But now there came a cheery 
voice calling upon them, and a red turban bobbed 
about among the rocks, with the large white 
face of the Nonconformist minister smiling from 
beneath it. He had a thick lance with which 
to support his injured leg, and this murderous 
crutch combined with his peaceful appearance 
to give him a most incongruous aspect — as of 
a sheep which has suddenly developed claws. 
Behind him were two negroes with a basket and 
a water-skin. 

"Not a word! Not a word!" he cried, as 
he stumped up to them. " I know exactly how 
you feel. I've been there myself. Bring the 
water, Ali ! Only half a cup, Miss Adams ; you 
shall have some more presently. Now your 




NOT A WORD ! NOT A WORD ! " HE CRIED. 

U 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 307 

turn, Mrs. Belmont ! Dear me, dear me, you 
poor souls, how my heart does bleed for you ! 
There's bread and meat in the basket, but you 
must be very moderate at first." He chuckled 
with joy, and slapped his fat hands together as 
he watched them. 

" But the others ? " he asked, his face turning 
grave again. 

The Colonel shook his head. "We left them 
behind at the wells. I fear that it is all over 
with them." 

" Tut, tut ! " cried the clergyman, in a boisterous 
voice, which could not cover the despondency 
of his expression ; " you thought, no doubt, that 
it was all over with me, but here I am in spite 
of it. Never lose heart, Mrs. Belmont. Your 
husband's position could not possibly be as 
hopeless as mine was." 

" When I saw you standing on that rock up 
yonder, I put it down to delirium," said the 
Colonel. " If the ladies had not seen you, I 
should never have ventured to believe it." 

" I am afraid that I behaved very badly. Captain 
Archer says that I nearly spoiled all their plans, 



308 THE TEAGEUY OF THE KOROSKO 

and that I deserved to be tried by a drumhead 
court-martial and shot. The fact is that, when 
I heard the Arabs beneath me, I forgot myself 
in my anxiety to know if any of you were left." 

" I wonder that you were not shot without 
any drumhead court-martial," said the Colonel. 
" But how in the world did you get here ? " 

" The Haifa people were close upon our track 
at the time when I was abandoned, and they 
picked me up in the desert. I must have been 
delirious, I suppose, for they tell me that they 
heard my voice, singing hymns, a long way off, 
and it was that, under the providence of God, 
which brought them to me. They had a camel 
ambulance, and I was quite myself again by next 
day. I came with the Sarras people after we met 
them, because they have the doctor with them. 
My wound is nothing, and he says that a man 
of my habit will be the better for the loss of 
blood. And now, my friends " — his big, brown 
eyes lost their twinkle, and became very solemn 
and reverent — "we have all been upon the very 
confines of death, and our dear companions may 
be so at this instant. The same Power which 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 309 

saved us may save them, and let us pray together 
that it may be so, always remembering that if, in 
spite of our prayers, it should not be so, then 
that also must be accepted as the best and wisest 
thing." 

So they knelt together among the black rocks, 
and prayed as some of them had never prayed 
before. It was very well to discuss prayer and 
treat it lightly and philosophically upon the 
deck of the Korosko. It was easy to feel strong 
and self-confident in the comfortable deck-chair, 
with the slippered Arab handing round the 
coffee and liqueurs. But they had been swept 
out of that placid stream of existence, and 
dashed against the horrible, jagged facts of life. 
Battered and shaken, they must have something 
to cling to. A blind, inexorable destiny was too 
horrible a belief. A chastening power, acting 
intelligently and for a purpose — a living, work- 
ing power, tearing them out of their grooves, 
breaking down their small sectarian ways, forcing 
them into the better path — that was what they 
had learned to realise during these days of horror. 
Great hands had closed suddenly upon them, 



310 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOBOSKO 

and had moulded them into new shapes, and 
fitted them for new uses. Could such a power 
be deflected by any human supplication ? It 
was that or nothing — the last court of appeal, 
left open to injured humanity. And so they 
all prayed, as a lover loves, or a poet writes, 
from the very inside of their souls, and they 
rose with that singular, illogical feeling of in- 
ward peace and satisfaction which prayer only 
can give. 

" Hush ! " said Cochrane. " Listen ! " 
The sound of a volley came crackling up the 
narrow khor, and then another and another. 
The Colonel was fidgeting about like an old 
horse which hears the bugle of the hunt and 
the yapping of the pack. 

" Where can we see what is going on ? " 
" Come this way ! This way, if you please ! 
There is a path up to the top. If the ladies 
will come after me, they will be spared the 
sight of anything painful." 

The clergyman led them along the side to 
avoid the bodies which were littered thickly 
down the bottom of the khor. It was hard 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE K0R0SKO 311 

walking over the shingly, slaggy stones, but 
they made their way to the summit at last. 
Beneath them lay the vast expanse of the roll- 
ing desert, and in the foreground such a scene 
as none of them are ever likely to forget. In 
that perfectly dry and clear light, with the un- 
varying brown tint of the hard desert as a 
background, every detail stood out as clearly 
as if these were toy figures arranged upon a 
table within hand's- touch of them. 

The Dervishes — or what was left of them — 
were riding slowly some little distance out in 
a confused crowd, their patchwork jibbehs and 
red turbans swaying with the motion of their 
camels. They did not present the appearance 
of men who were defeated, for their movements 
were very deliberate, but they looked about 
them and changed their formation as if they 
were uncertain what their tactics ought to be. 
It was no wonder that they were puzzled, for 
upon their spent camels their situation was as 
hopeless as could be conceived. The Sarras 
men had all emerged from the khor, and had 
dismounted, the beasts being held in groups of 



312 THE TEAGEDY OF THE KOKOSKO 

four, while the riflemen knelt in a long line with 
a woolly, curling fringe of smoke, sending volley 
after volley at the Arabs, who shot back in a 
desultory fashion from the backs of their camels. 
But it was not upon the sullen group of Der- 
vishes, nor yet upon the long line of kneeling 
riflemen, that the eyes of the spectators were 
fixed. Far out upon the desert, three squadrons 
of the Haifa Camel Corps were coming up in a 
dense close column, which wheeled beautifully 
into a widespread semicircle as it approached. 
The Arabs were caught between two fires. 

" By Jove ! " cried the Colonel. " See that ! " 

The camels of the Dervishes had all knelt 
down simultaneously, and the men had sprung 
from their backs. In front of them was a tall, 
stately figure, who could only be the Emir Wad 
Ibrahim. They saw him kneel for an instant 
in prayer. Then he rose, and taking something 
from his saddle he placed it very deliberately 
upon the sand and stood upon it. 

" Good man ! " cried the Colonel. " He is 
standing upon his sheepskin." 

" What do you mean by that ? " asked Stuart. 




THE ARABS WERE CAUGHT BETWEEN TWO FIRES. 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 315 

" Every Arab has a sheepskin upon his saddle. 
When he recognises that his position is perfectly 
hopeless, and yet is determined to fight to the 
death, he takes his sheepskin off and stands 
upon it until he dies. See, they are all upon 
their sheepskins. They will neither give nor 
take quarter now." 

The drama beneath them was rapidly approach- 
ing its climax. The Haifa Corps was well up, 
and a ring of smoke and flame surrounded the 
clump of kneeling Dervishes, who answered it as 
best they could. Many of them were already 
down, but the rest loaded and fired with the 
unflinching courage which has always made them 
worthy antagonists. A dozen kharki-dressed 
figures upon the sand showed that it was no 
bloodless victory for the Egyptians. But now 
there was a stirring bugle call from the Sarras 
men, and another answered it from the Haifa 
Corps. Their camels were down also, and the 
men had formed up into a single, long, curved 
line. One last volley, and they were charging 
inwards with the wild inspiriting yell which the 
blacks had brought with them from their central 



316 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

African wilds. For a minute there was a mad 
vortex of rushing figures, rifle butts rising and 
falling, spear-heads gleaming and darting among 
the rolling dust cloud. Then the bugle rang 
out once more, the Egyptians fell back and 
formed up with the quick precision of highly 
disciplined troops, and there in the centre, 
each upon his sheepskin, lay the gallant bar- 
barian and his raiders. The nineteenth century 
had been revenged upon the seventh. 

The three women had stared horror-stricken 
and yet fascinated at the stirring scene before 
them. Now Sadie and her aunt were sobbing 
together. The Colonel had turned to them with 
some cheering words when his eyes fell upon the 
face of Mrs. Belmont. It was as white and set 
as if it were carved from ivory, and her largo grey 
eyes were fixed as if she were in a trance. 

" Good Heavens, Mrs. Belmont, what is the 
matter ? " he cried. 

For answer she pointed out over the desert. 
Far away, miles on the other side of the scene 
of the fight, a small body of men were riding 
towards them. 




THEY ARE SAVED 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 319 

" By Jove, yes ; there's some one there. Who 
can it be ? " 

They were all straining their eyes, but the 
distance was so great that they could only be 
sure that they were camel-men and about a 
dozen in number. 

" It's those devils who were left behind in the 
palm-grove," said Cochrane. " There's no one else 
it can be. One consolation, they can't get away 
again. They've walked right into the lion's mouth." 

But Mrs. Belmont was still gazing with the 
same fixed intensity, and the same ivory face. 
Now, with a wild shriek of joy, she threw her 
two hands into the air. " It's they ! " she 
screamed. " They are saved ! It's they, Colonel, 
it's they ! Miss Adams, Miss Adams, it is 
they ! " She capered about on the top of the 
hill with wild eyes like an excited child. 

Her companions would not believe her, for 
they could see nothing, but there are moments 
when our mortal senses are more acute than 
those who have never put their whole heart 
and soul into them can ever realise. Mrs. Bel- 
mont had already run down the rocky path, 



320 THE TEAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

on the way to her camel, before they could 
distinguish that which had long before carried 
its glad message to her. In the van of the 
approaching party, three white dots shimmered 
in the sun, and they could only come from the 
three European hats. The riders were travelling 
swiftly, and by the time their comrades had 
started to meet them they could plainly see that 
it was indeed Belmont, Fardet, and Stephens, 
with the dragoman Mansoor, and the wounded 
Soudanese rifleman. As they came together 
they saw that their escort consisted of Tippy 
Tilly and the other old Egyptian soldiers. Bel- 
mont rushed onwards to meet his wife, but 
Fardet stopped to grasp the Colonel's hand. 

" Vive la France ! Vivent les Anglais ! " he 
was yelling. " Tout va Hen, nest ce pas, Colonel ? 
Ah, canaille ! Vivent la croix et les Chre'tiens ! " 
He was incoherent in his delight. 

The Colonel, too, was as enthusiastic as his 
Anglo-Saxon standard would permit. He could 
not gesticulate, but he laughed in the nervous 
crackling way which was his top-note of emotion. 

" My dear boy, I am deuced glad to see you 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOEOSKO 321 

all again. I gave you up for lost. Never was 
as pleased at anything in my life ! How did 
you get away ? " 

" It was all your doing.' 

" Mine ? " 

" Yes, my friend, and I have been quarrelling 
with you — ungrateful wretch that I am ! " 

" But how did I save you ? " 

" It was you who arranged with this excellent 
Tippy Tilly and the others that they should 
have so much if they brought us alive into Egypt 
again. They slipped away in the darkness and 
hid themselves in the grove. Then, when we 
were left, they crept up with their rifles and 
shot the men who were about to murder us. 
That cursed Moolah, I am sorry they shot him, 
for I believe that I could have persuaded him 
to be a Christian. And now, with your per- 
mission, I will hurry on and embrace Miss 
Adams, for Belmont has his wife, and Stephens 
has Miss Sadie, so I think it is very evident that 
the sympathy of Miss Adams is reserved for me." 

A fortnight had passed away, and the special 

X 



322 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

boat which had been placed at the disposal of 
the rescued tourists was already far north of 
Assiout. Next morning they would find them- 
selves at Baliani, where one takes the express 
for Cairo. It was, therefore, their last evening 
together. Mrs. Shlesinger and her child, who 
had escaped unhurt, had already been sent down 
from the frontier. Miss Adams had been very ill 
after her privations, and this was the first time 
that she had been allowed to come upon deck 
after dinner. She sat now in a lounge chair, 
thinner, sterner, and kindlier than ever, while 
Sadie stood beside her and tucked the rugs 
around her shoulders. Mr. Stephens was carry- 
ing over the coffee and placing it on the wicker 
table beside them. On the other side of the 
deck Belmont and his wife were seated together 
in silent sympathy and contentment. Monsieur 
Fardet was leaning against the rail, and arguing 
about the remissness of the British Government 
in not taking a more complete control of the 
Egyptian frontier, while the Colonel stood very 
erect in front of him, with the red end of a 
cigar-stump protruding from under his moustache. 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 323 

But what was the matter with the Colonel ? 
Who would have recognised him who had only 
seen the broken old man in the Libyan Desert ? 
There might be some little grizzling about the 
moustache, but the hair was back once more 
at the fine glossy black which had been so 
much admired upon the voyage up. With a 
stony face and an unsympathetic manner he had 
received, upon his return to Haifa, all the com- 
miserations about the dreadful way in which his 
privations had blanched him, and then diving 
into his cabin, he had reappeared within an hour 
exactly as he had been before that fatal moment 
when he had been cut off from the manifold 
resources of civilisation. And he looked in such 
a sternly questioning manner at every one who 
stared at him, that no one had the moral courage 
to make any remark about this modern miracle. 
It was observed from that time forward that, 
if the Colonel had only to ride a hundred yards 
into the desert, he always began his prepara- 
tions by putting a small black bottle with 
a pink label into the side-pocket of his coat. 
But those who knew him best at times when 



324 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

a man may best be known, said that the old 
soldier had a young man's heart and a young 
man's spirit — so that if he wished to keep a 
young man's colour also it was not very un- 
reasonable after all. 

It was very soothing and restful up there on 
the saloon deck, with no sound but the gentle 
lipping of the water as it rippled against the 
sides of the steamer. The red after-glow was 
in the western sky, and it mottled the broad, 
smooth river with crimson. Dimly they could 
discern the tall figures of herons standing upon 
the sand-banks, and farther off the line of river- 
side date-palms glided past them in a majestic 
procession. Once more the silver stars were 
twinkling out, the same clear, placid, inexorable 
stars to which their weary eyes had been so 
often upturned during the long nights of their 
desert martyrdom. 

" Where do you put up in Cairo, Miss 
Adams ? " asked Mrs. Belmont at last. 

" Shepheard's, I think.'' 

" And you, Mr. Stephens ? " 

" Oh, Shepheard's, decidedly." 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 325 

" We are staying at the Continental. I hope 
we shall not lose sight of you." 

" I don't want ever to lose sight of you, Mrs. 
Belmont," cried Sadie. " Oh, you must come 
to the States, and we'll give you just a lovely 
time." 

Mrs. Belmont laughed, in her pleasant, mellow 
fashion. 

" We have our duty to do in Ireland, and we 
have been too long away from it already. My 
husband has his business, and I have my home, 
and they are both going to rack and ruin. 
Besides," she added slyly, " it is just possible 
that if we did come to the States we might not 
find you there." 

" We must all meet again," said Belmont, " if 
only to talk our adventures over once more. It 
will be easier in a year or two. We are still too 
near them." 

" And yet how far away and dream-like it all 
seems ! " remarked his wife. " Providence is very 
good in softening disagreeable remembrances in 
our minds. All this feels to me as if it had 
happened in some previous existence." 



326 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

Fardet held up his wrist with a cotton bandage 
still round it. 

" The body does not forget as quickly as the 
mind. This does not look very dream-like or 
far away, Mrs. Belmont." 

* How hard it is that some should be spared, 
and some not ! If only Mr. Brown and Mr. 
Headingly were with us, then I should not 
have one care in the world," cried Sadie. 
" Why should they have been taken, and we 
left ? " 

Mr. Stuart had limped on to the deck with 
an open book in his hand, a thick stick support- 
ing his injured leg. 

" Why is the ripe fruit picked, and the unripe 
left ? " said he in answer to the young girl's 
exclamation. " We know nothing of the spiritual 
state of these poor dear young fellows, but the 
great Master Gardener plucks His fruit according 
to His own knowledge. I brought you up a 
passage to read to you." 

There was a lantern upon the table, and he 
sat down beside it. The yellow light shone 
upon his heavy cheek and the red edges of his 




HE DELIVERED THEM FROM THEIR DISTRESS." 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 329 

book. The strong, steady voice rose above the 
wash of the water. 

" ' Let them give thanks whom the Lord hath 
redeemed and delivered from the hand of the 
enemy, and gathered them out of the lands, from 
the east, and from the west, from the north, and 
from the south. They went astray in the wilder- 
ness out of the way, and found no city to dwell 
in. Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in 
them. So they cried unto the Lord in their 
trouble, and He delivered them from their dis- 
tress. He led them forth by the right way, 
that they might go to the city where they 
dwelt. Oh that men would therefore praise 
the Lord for His goodness, and declare the 
wonders that He doeth for the children of 
men. . 

" It sounds as if it were composed for us, 
and yet it was written two thousand years 
ago," said the clergyman, as he closed the 
book. " In every age man has been forced 
to acknowledge the guiding hand which leads 
him. For my part I don't believe that 
inspiration stopped two thousand years ago. 



330 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

When Tennyson wrote with such fervour and 

conviction, 

' Oil, yet we trust that somehow good 
Will be the final goal of ill,' 

he was repeating the message which had been 
given to him, just as Micah or Ezekiel, when the 
world was younger, repeated some cruder and 
more elementary message." 

" That is all very well, Mr. Stuart," said the 
Frenchman ; " you ask me to praise God for 
taking me out of danger and pain, but what I 
want to know is why, since He has arranged 
all things, He ever put me into that pain and 
danger. I have, in my opinion, more occasion 
to blame than to praise. You would not thank 
me for pulling you out of that river if it was 
also I who pushed you in. The most which you 
can claim for your Providence is that it has 
healed the wound which its own hand inflicted." 

" I don't deny the difficulty," said the clergy- 
man slowly; "no one who is not self-deceived 
can deny the difficulty. Look how boldly Tenny- 
son faced it in that same poem, the grandest and 
deepest and most obviously inspired in our 



*THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 331 

language. Remember the effect which it had 
upon him. 

' I falter where I firmly trod, 

And falling with my weight of cares 
Upon the great world's altar stairs 
Which slope through darkness up to God ; 

I stretch lame hands of faith and grope 
And gather dust and chaff, and call 
To what I feel is Lord of all, 

And faintly trust the larger hope.' 

It is the central mystery of mysteries — the 
problem of sin and suffering, the one huge 
difficulty which the reasoner has to solve in 
order to vindicate the dealings of God with 
man. But take our own case as an example. 
I, for one, am very clear what I have got out 
of our experience. I say it with all humility, 
but I have a clearer view of my duties than 
ever I had before. It has taught me to be less 
remiss in saying what I think to be true, less 
indolent in doing what I feel to be right." 

" And I," cried Sadie. " It has taught me 
more than all my life put together. I have 
learned so much and unlearned so much. I am 
a different girl." 



332 THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 

" I never understood my own nature before/' 
said Stephens. " I can hardly say that I had 
a nature to understand. I lived for what 
was unimportant, and I neglected what was 
vital." 

" Oh, a good shake-up does nobody any harm," 
the Colonel remarked. " Too much of the 
feather-bed-and-four-meals-a-day life is not good 
for man or woman." 

" It is my firm belief," said Mrs. Belmont 
gravely, " that there was not one of us Avho 
did not rise to a greater height during those 
days in the desert than ever before or since. 
When our sins come to be weighed, much may 
be forgiven us for the sake of those unselfish 
days." 

They all sat in thoughtful silence for a little, 
while the scarlet streaks turned to carmine, and 
the grey shadows deepened, and the wild-fowl flew 
past in dark straggling V's over the dull metallic 
surface of the great smooth-flowing Nile. A cold 
wind had sprung up from the eastward, and some 
of -the party rose to leave the deck. Stephens 
leaned forward to Sadie. 



THE TRAGEDY OF THE KOROSKO 333 

" Do you remember what you promised when 
you were in the desert ? " he whispered. 

« What was that ? " 

" You said that if you escaped you would try 
in future to make some one else happy." 

" Then I must do so." 

" You have," said he, and their hands met 
under the shadow of the table. 



THE END 



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